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NATIONAL COUNCIL OF COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH CTRS.

August 3, 1973

NATIONAL COUNCIL OF COMMUNITY MENTAL HEALTH CENTERS, INC., et al., on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
Caspar WEINBERGER et al., Defendants


Gesell, District Judge.


The opinion of the court was delivered by: GESELL

Gesell, District Judge.

 Plaintiffs as a class bring this action seeking an order requiring defendants to review, approve, and obligate to the plaintiffs funds in the amount of $52,050,000 for first-year grants for staffing of community mental health centers and for construction and staffing of mental health treatment centers for children under the Community Mental Health Centers Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2688-2688d, 2688u (hereinafter referred to as the Act). The class, certified by the Court under Rule 23, Fed. R. Civ. P., consists of all those having applied for first-year grants under these provisions of the Act.

 Defendants have moved to dismiss this action on the grounds that the Court lacks jurisdiction over the subject matter of this action; that plaintiffs have failed to join an indispensible party; that there is no justiciable case or controversy presented by this action; and that the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. In addition, plaintiffs and defendants have each cross-moved for summary judgment as a matter of law. The issues have been thoroughly briefed and the underlying facts are not in dispute.

 Administration of the Act lies with the Secretary of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW). The Regional Offices of HEW review applications and then send them to the National Advisory Mental Health Council for approval. If that approval is obtained, each of the ten HEW Regional Directors then makes the final determination on which of the applications as recommended favorably by the National Advisory Mental Health Council will be finally approved for award, the amount to be awarded, and the priority order for payment. Accordingly, although a Regional Health Director may not award a grant that has not been recommended for approval by the National Advisory Mental Health Council, a favorable recommendation by the National Advisory Mental Health Council neither constitutes effective approval of a grant application nor obligates the respective Regional Health Directors to award a grant to the applicant.

 On February 23, 1973, the Director of the National Institute of Mental Health issued a directive to the HEW Associate Regional Directors for Mental Health which in pertinent part:

 (1) Noted that because of the revised 1973 budget "no new staffing grants will be awarded in 1973."

 (2) Noted that "[all] activities of the Regional Offices pertaining to the development of additional staffing grant applications should be discontinued since they cannot be funded."

 (3) Discouraged potential applicants for grants from making application: assistance in the form of "staffing application kits" was directed "not [to] be distributed to potential applicants;" applications received and not yet reviewed were not to be "site visited or reviewed for funding but should be acknowledged to the applicant in a letter explaining the reason the application will not be reviewed . . .;" staffing grant applications already reviewed by the Regional Office were ordered "not [to] be duplicated or presented to the National Advisory Mental Health Council."

 As of February, 1973, a total of 77 grant applications had been recommended for approval by the National Advisory Mental Health Council, in total sum of $39,026,565, and many other applications had been received and were under review, or had been initially approved by Regional Directors. After February 23, 1973, defendants ceased procuring and developing first-year grant applications by members of the plaintiff class and applications have not been processed or developed. No action was taken by defendants after February 23, 1973, to obligate or expend funds for the 77 approved grant applications, or for any other first-year grant applications in fiscal 1973, although the defendants made available funds in fiscal 1973 to applicants to meet the continuation costs of previously funded grants.

 By continuing resolution, for fiscal year 1973 Congress has appropriated for obligation and expenditure the sums of $165,000,000 for Community Mental Health Center staffing and $20,000,000 for Mental Health for Children. *fn1" Although approximately $52,050,000 of this appropriation is available for funding first-year grant applications, none of this amount had been obligated or expended as of the date of suit. On June 28, 1973, the Court entered a preliminary injunction ordering defendants to review and fully process by normal criteria all pending applications, and to take measures necessary under 31 U.S.C. § 200 to prevent all unobligated and unspent funds for the first-year grant programs from lapsing at the end of fiscal 1973, and thus returning to the general treasury fund pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 701(a)(2).

 Before turning to the merits, the issues raised by defendants' motion to dismiss must be considered.

 The defendant Government officials raise standard objections so typical in these cases and many other categories of current Government litigation. They plead sovereign immunity and say that citizens directly affected as potential beneficiaries of appropriations have no standing to complain because these appropriation matters raise transcendent political issues which a Federal Court should not venture to resolve.

 It is time this litany was displaced by a modicum of common sense. When Congress directs that money be spent and the President, as Chief Executive, declines to permit the spending, the resulting conflict is not political. The President, after being advised, believes he has the power because of economic conditions and other reasons to refuse to spend at his discretion. Yet he is charged by the Constitution faithfully to execute the laws. If the President is in all good faith mistaken as to the meaning and effect of the law or his inherent power under the Constitution, what is more normal and ...


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