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JANE DOES I THROUGH III v. DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

December 16, 2002

JANE DOES I THROUGH III, PLAINTIFF,
V.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND MRDDA, DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Henry H. Kennedy, Jr., United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Jane Doe I, Jane Doe II and Jane Doe III,*fn1 are individuals with mental retardation who receive habilitation services from the District of Columbia. Plaintiffs, by their next friends, bring this action on their own behalf and on behalf of others similarly situated, against the District of Columbia and the Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Administration ("MRDDA").*fn2 Plaintiffs claim that, while they were in defendants' care, defendants authorized non-emergency surgical procedures to be performed on them, without first obtaining legal consent. Plaintiffs bring this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and seek declaratory, injunctive relief, and monetary relief.

This matter comes before the court on defendants' motion for partial judgment on the pleadings. Defendants claim that, even if relief is warranted, plaintiffs' access to injunctive relief is foreclosed by res judicata, as a result of prior litigation in Evans & United States v. Williams, Civil Action No. 76-293. Defendants further contend that MRDDA is not amenable to suit and therefore request that all claims against MRDDA be dismissed. Upon consideration of defendants' motion, plaintiffs' opposition thereto, and the record of this case, the court concludes that defendants' motion must be granted in part and denied in part.

I. BACKGROUND INFORMATION

A. The Present Litigation

Plaintiffs are individuals with mental retardation who have been institutionalized in District facilities since the 1960's. From the time of their institution through 1978, plaintiffs resided in Forest Haven, a facility which, before its closure, served the mentally retarded population of the District of Columbia. They now reside in other community-based facilities.

Plaintiffs bring this action because they claim that in the course of providing habilitation*fn3 services to plaintiffs and others similarly situated, the District adopted a policy under which the Superintendent of Forest Haven, and later, administrators of MRDDA, would routinely authorize medical procedures to be performed on institutionalized individuals. As a result of this policy, invasive, non-emergency procedures were reportedly performed on plaintiffs, without medical personnel ever consulting with, or receiving consent from, plaintiffs' families, guardians, or court-appointed advocates. This District policy, first known as Policy H-18, and presently known as Policy H-6, has reportedly been in existence for at least thirty years and has allegedly resulted in thousands of illegally-authorized surgical procedures, including forced sterilizations, hysterectomies, and abortions.*fn4 Plaintiffs contend that "defendants continue to this day to authorize surgical procedures on individuals with developmental disabilities, without the consent of any legally authorized representative." Compl. at 1.

Plaintiffs claim that the District's policy violates their substantive and procedural due process rights, secured by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Among other remedies, plaintiffs seek "[i]injunctive relief barring the District of Columbia from any further utilization of Policy H-6 or any other policy that allows city officials to consent to elective surgical procedures for plaintiffs and their fellow Class members without due process of law." Compl. at 10.
This matter comes before the court on defendants' motion for partial judgment on the pleadings. Defendants contend that res judicata, now commonly known as claim preclusion, bars plaintiffs from obtaining injunctive relief as a result of prior litigation in Evans & United States v. Williams. Defendants contend that Jane Does I, II, and III were class members in Evans, and that, as members of the Evans class, plaintiffs' exclusive equitable remedy is an appropriate motion before the Evans court.

B. Evans v. Washington

Before the court may parse the scope and effect of the Evans action, a word on that litigation is warranted. Evans v. Washington was a class action brought in 1976 by residents of Forest Haven. The gravamen of the Evans plaintiffs' complaint was that they were not receiving a "constitutionally minimal level of habilitation" while institutionalized at Forest Haven. Evans class members alleged a wide range of constitutional violations resulting from inhumane conditions at the facility. Evans, Compl. ¶ 1. Specifically, class members claimed that, while institutionalized at Forest Haven, they were over-medicated, beaten, and burned by the Forest Haven staff and were reportedly deprived of: decent nutrition, proper counseling and mental health treatment, sufficient educational and vocational training, and adequate dental and medical care.
In 1978, the district court essentially agreed with the plaintiffs and concluded that residents' constitutional rights had been violated. Thereafter, the parties agreed to a detailed consent judgment that addressed almost every aspect of life at Forest Haven and called for closing that facility and placing its residents in "community living arrangements." See Evans v. Washington, 459 F. Supp. 483 (D.D.C. 1978). Since the filing of the aforementioned consent decree in1978, subsequent consent orders have been entered, although regrettably, the District has not always satisfied its obligations thereunder.*fn5 The Evans litigation continues to this day. See, e.g., Evans v. Williams, 139 F. Supp.2d 79 (D.D.C. 2001).

II. ANALYSIS

A. Legal Standard for Judgment on ...


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