Secretary of Public Welfare of Pennsylvania v. Institutionalized Juveniles

PETITIONER: Secretary of Public Welfare of Pennsylvania
RESPONDENT: Institutionalized Juveniles
LOCATION: Congress

DOCKET NO.: 77-1715
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)

CITATION: 442 US 640 (1979)
ARGUED: Oct 10, 1978
DECIDED: Jun 20, 1979

David Ferleger - for appellees
Norman J. Watkins - for appellants

Facts of the case


Media for Secretary of Public Welfare of Pennsylvania v. Institutionalized Juveniles

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 10, 1978 in Secretary of Public Welfare of Pennsylvania v. Institutionalized Juveniles

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in 1715, Secretary of Public Welfare of Pennsylvania.

Mr. Noble, I think you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Excuse me, Mr. Watkins, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Norman J. Watkins:

Mr. Chief Justice, may it please the Court.

This is an appeal from a three-judge court determination that two of Pennsylvania statutes, which provide that parents may voluntarily admit their children to mental health or mental retardation treatment in Pennsylvania facilities are unconstitutional.

The statutes involved, are first, a 1966 Act that provides that parents of a mentally retarded child under the age of 18 may apply for voluntary admission of that child to treatment upon acceptance and the determination that the child is in fact in need of mental retardation therapy.

The child may then be admitted upon the application of the child.

The 1976 Act provides that parents of a mentally-ill child under the age of 14, upon the application of the parent and upon the determination of a psychiatrist or physician of the need for treatment may consent to the voluntary treatment of that child.

Furthermore, under the 1966 Act, Pennsylvania promulgated regulations that require -- and this deals with the mentally retarded again that require not one but two independent medical determinations that the child is in fact retarded and requires the treatment which has been recommended.

The plaintiffs in this case and there are 12 of them, nine of whom are mentally ill and three mentally retarded, all were admitted upon application of their parent or guardian or one standing in loco parentis.

Eight were in fact admitted by their parents and four were admitted by childcare agencies in as much as they were for one reason or another words of the state.

Each of these children, and this is typical, have had, and the record shows this, a minimum of three independent medical evaluations indicating the need for the treatment for which about which they were receiving.

Furthermore, not one of these appellees nor any members of the class involved -- strike that.

Not one of these appellees sought to terminate that treatment by way of any of existing court procedures of which they may avail themselves from moment one after the admission.

Furthermore, as we stand here, some of the appellees remain in the treatment setting and there is no proceed -- there are no proceedings underway in state court to terminate that treatment.

Nevertheless, the plaintiff's brought this challenge primarily and exclusively on the Due Process Clause asserting that prior to the effectuation of the admission, the children had a right to counsel and the full panoply of due process.

The lower court agreeing with the plaintiff's ordered essentially two hearings.

First, what was called a probable cause hearing at which it would be determined if in fact the child -- if in fact there was probable cause in the courts or the tribunals view to believe that the child was mentally ill or retarded and whether or not the medically recommended treatment was in fact advisable.

Within two weeks of that hearing, assuming affirmative findings on both counts, the tribunal would convene a full adversary proceeding at which the findings required are whether in fact the child is mentally ill or retarded and whether in fact the treatment which has been medically recommended is approved by the court or tribunal.

Potter Stewart:

You say or tribunal, what's the alternative court?

Norman J. Watkins:

Initially, this case has been here before.

Initially the lower court required judicial hearings.

This order was slightly amended to allow the state to provide neutral trib -- an independent neutral tribunal.

However, it should be noted that this tribunal must have the authority to protect the child's rights which are specified by the order to cross-examination to present testimony and furthermore to approve a waiver of this significant constitutional right which the child has been given by the lower court's order.

So, I would --

Potter Stewart:

Did the Pennsylvania legislature created such a tribunal?

Norman J. Watkins:

Not at this time, Your Honor.

I would suggest also that the Court's modifications as to the tribunal and counsel, that the requirement of counsel has been substituted by a requirement for a trained advocate.

However, once again, this trained advocate must be able to vouchsafe the child's rights to cross-examine, confront witnesses, to present testimony and in fact must be able to make the legal determination of whether or not the child should waive his rights to --

Warren E. Burger:

Now, what's the source of these supplemental standards?