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WILKERSON v. OTIS R. BOWEN (06/15/87)

argued: June 15, 1987.

WILKERSON, WILLIAM, GARDNER, ROBERT J., SMITH, WILLIAM E., ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED
v.
OTIS R. BOWEN, SECRETARY OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES. WILLIAM WILKERSON, ROBERT J. GARDNER, WILLIAM E. SMITH, ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PROPOSED INTERVENTORS, WILLIAM PATTERSON, PAUL BRADLEY, REATHER BEAUFORT, FREDDIE POSTELL, FRANCIS MARCHESANO, WALTER BEARD, CHARLES GLENN AND DONALD DALESSIO, AND THE MEMBERS OF THE PROPOSED CLASS OF PLAINTIFFS, APPELLANTS



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, D.C. Civil No. 84-2548.

Seitz and Mansmann, Circuit Judges, and Debevoise, District Judge.*fn*

Author: Debevoise

Opinion OF THE COURT

DEBEVOISE, District Judge

Appellants appeal from an order of the district court denying their motions for intervention, for class certification and for a preliminary and permanent injunction and dismissing their complaint. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1291 and 1292(a)(1) and under 42 U.S.C. § 405(g).

I. Background

The object of the proceedings in the district court was to challenge regulations of the Secretary of Health and Human Services (the "Secretary") for evaluating disability claims based on alcoholism. In essence appellants assert that the regulations constitute "nonacquiscence" in the law of this circuit embodied in Purter v. Heckler, 771 F.2d 682 (3d Cir. 1985) and McShea v. Schweiker, 700 F.2d 117 (3d Cir. 1983) and, further, present a failure to apply the mandates of the Social Security Disability Benefits Reform Act of 1984.

The original plaintiffs (William Wilkerson, Robert J. Gardner and William E. Smith), who had been denied disability benefits, filed a class action on June 6, 1984 seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. After plaintiffs moved for class certification and summary judgment, their classes were remanded to the Secretary for payment of benefits. William Patterson, who had been denied SSI disability benefits and who was awaiting a hearing before an ALJ, moved to intervene so as to carry on representation of the class of plaintiffs. the Secretary moved to dismiss the action. before the district court decided Patterson's and the Secretary's motions, an ALJ awarded Patterson benefits.

The district court concluded that neither the three plaintiffs nor Patterson, the application for intervention, was in a position to represent the proposed class adequately "because their claims for disability benefits, unlike those of members of the proposed class, have been satisfied." In an order dated June 24, 1986 the court: (i) dismissed Wilkerson, Gardner and Smith, (ii) denied Patterson's motion to intervene, (iii) allowed members of the proposed class to seek intervention as plaintiffs within 30 days and (iv) declared that the court did not have jurisdiction over claims of proposed class members who failed to institute a court action within 60 days of a final decision of the Secretary or who had filed to exhaust their administrative remedies.

Thereafter seven persons moved to intervene, all of whom had alcohol related disability claims. At the time he moved to intervene, Freddie Postell's action seeking reversal of the Secretary's adverse disability decision was pending in the district court, but before his motion was heard the district court remanded his claim to the Secretary for reconsideration. The disability claims of the six remaining proposed intervenors had been denied at the time they filed their intervention motions, but they had not exhausted their administrative remedies. In addition to filing intervention motions, plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction.

On November 3, 1986 the district court filed a memorandum opinion and order denying the motions for intervention, denying the motions for class certification and for a preliminary and permanent injunction and dismissing the complaint.

The district court ruled that proposed intervenors Freddie Postell, Paul Bradley and Reather Beaufort had not shown that they would be irreparably injured if they were required to exhaust their administrative remedies, and consequently the exhaustion requirements could not be excused. This finding resulted in denial of their intervention motions. The district court denied the motions to intervene of Francis Marchesano, Walter Beard, Charles Glenn and Donald Dalessio for filing to establish a basis for waiving the exhaustion requirement and on the additional ground that they did not file their motions within the time specified in the court's order. The court concluded that failure of a suitable class representative to intervene required denial of the class certification motion and that the lack of a plaintiff with standing to maintain the action required dismissal of the complaint and denial of the motion for injunctive relief as moot. This appeal followed.

The effect to be given to an award of benefits to putative class representatives and circumstances which require a waiver of the exhaustion requirements raise questions of law. therefore, the standard of review is plenary. We conclude that he award of benefit to the three original plaintiffs and to proposed intervenor Patterson did not preclude them from serving fairly and adequately as class representatives. We also conclude that in the circumstances of ...


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