The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals concurs. Lampkin v. District of Columbia, 307 U.S. App. D.C. 155, 27 F.3d 605, 611 (D.C. Cir. 1994). In reviewing various sub-sections of section 11432(e), the court agreed that the language did not specifically exclude any state. Nonetheless, the court concluded: "The language of these provisions is sufficiently clear to put the States on notice of the obligations they assume when they choose to accept grants made under the Act." Id. (emphasis added).
B. Injunctive Relief to Remedy Past Wrongs
Plaintiffs and defendants disagree about the extent of compliance with the court's March 7 order. They disagree whether plaintiffs have obtained all of the relief originally sought. And they disagree whether any of the plaintiffs have standing to request injunctive relief as a remedy for past wrongs by the District. Because the court is unwilling to invoke its equitable powers to provide further injunctive relief, it is unnecessary to reach these disputed issues.
Injunctions are generally characterized as preventive, structural or reparative. See, e.g., Dan B. Dobbs, Law of Remedies 164 (Hornbook Series, 2d ed. 1993). A preventive injunction attempts to foreclose a future harmful act; it would be improper unless the defendant is threatening to commit a wrong. The purpose of a structural injunction is to remodel an existing social or political institution to bring it into conformity with constitutional demands; e.g., restructuring a school system to facilitate equal educational opportunities. Structural injunctions are typically used as public law remedies for serious and pervasive rights violations. A reparative injunction prevents the future harmful effects of past acts; it requires the defendant to restore the plaintiff to a preexisting condition to which plaintiff was entitled.
Here, having withdrawn from the McKinney Act Education Program, the District will no longer be committing a wrong Nor is there a cognizable danger of recurrence, absent re-application for McKinney Act assistance. Nor are constitutional rights at stake. A preventive or structural injunction would be manifestly inappropriate. Arguably, a reparative injunction might cleanse the effects of the District's past transgressions, as documented in the court's March 7 opinion. The basis for issuing such an injunction is a balancing of benefits versus costs. Id. at 166. In this case, the balance weighs heavily against injunctive relief.
On the benefit side, a reparative injunction would provide the plaintiffs the very thing to which they were formerly entitled under the McKinney Act. But two facts militate against this potential benefit. First, plaintiffs' ephemeral entitlement disappeared on March 20 when the District withdrew from the Education Program, affirmed on April 11 when the Mayor signed the emergency legislation. Second, section 3-206.9 of the D.C. Code is unambiguous: "Nothing in this subchapter shall be construed to create an entitlement in any homeless person or family to emergency shelter or support services."
On the cost side, a reparative injunction would be a draconian cure for several reasons. First, without a continuing wrongful act to correct, an injunction would unduly intrude upon the operation of the District of Columbia government. Second, relief would be coerced by the court in respect of parties that were not before the court. Third, there is nothing in the record that particularizes the harm suffered by each plaintiff. Consequently, it would be most difficult for the court to structure injunctive relief that even roughly corresponds to the past wrongs suffered. In short, the costs of a reparative injunctive far exceed its benefit.
Notwithstanding protestations of concern for the plight of the less fortunate, the District of Columbia government has mounted a vigorous and successful legal challenge to continued application of this court's injunction of March 7, 1995. Whatever commitment the District has to ameliorate the educational obstacles faced by homeless children, that commitment has not survived its head-on collision with budget realities. Defendants have assigned some dollar figure to the cost of compliance with the McKinney Act -- apparently more than the Mayor and City Council are willing to spend on the educational services mandated by the March 7 order.
The court's task is clear. It cannot create out of whole cloth a statutory scheme to do good by the City's homeless children. The court must interpret and apply existing law. Given the District's withdrawal from the Program, there is now no law to apply. Defendants have succeeded in circumventing the requirements of the McKinney Act, thereby denying District citizens the federal assistance that would otherwise have been available. If there is to be a remedy, it lies with the District's voters, not with this court.
The injunction contained in the court's order of March 7, 1995 is hereby dissolved.
Royce C. Lamberth
United States District Judge
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