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Does v. District of Columbia

June 18, 2003

JANE DOES I THROUGH III, PLAINTIFF,
v.
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DEFENDANT.



MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs Jane Doe I, Jane Doe II, and Jane Doe III,*fn1 are individuals with developmental disabilities 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 ("District") pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983, seeking declaratory, injunctive, and monetary relief.*fn2

This matter comes before the court on plaintiffs' motion for class certification pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 23(b)(2). Upon consideration of plaintiffs' motion, defendant's opposition thereto, and the record of this case, the court concludes that plaintiffs' motion must be denied.

I. BACKGROUND INFORMATION

A. Factual Background

Plaintiffs are individuals with mental retardation who have been institutionalized in District facilities since the 1960's. From the time of their institutionalization through 1978, plaintiffs resided in Forest Haven, a facility which, before its closure, served the developmentally disabled population of the District of Columbia. They now reside in 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, first known as Policy H-18, then, between 1991 through July 1998, Policy H-6. Plaintiffs claim that under this policy, the Superintendent of Forest Haven, and later, administrators of the Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities Administration ("MRDDA"), would routinely authorize medical procedures to be performed on institutionalized individuals, although such officials were without legal authority to act for or make medical decisions on behalf of the institutionalized persons.*fn4 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 was reportedly in existence for at least thirty years, and it allegedly resulted in thousands of illegally-authorized surgical procedures, including forced sterilizations, hysterectomies, and abortions.

Plaintiffs claim that the District's policy violates their substantive and procedural due process rights, secured by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. Plaintiffs accordingly seek the following: (1) monetary relief; (2)"[i]njunctive 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;" and (3) declaratory relief, in the form of a declaration providing"that the policy of the District of Columbia which authorizes city officials to consent to elective surgical procedures for developmentally disabled individuals violates plaintiffs' and Class members' liberty interest to accept or refuse medical treatment and is therefore an unconstitutional infringement of the substantive and procedural due process rights of plaintiffs and their fellow Class members." Compl. at 10, ¶¶ 2-5.

In this case, plaintiffs move for partial class certification pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23(b)(2).*fn5 Plaintiffs seek to certify a class comprised of persons with mental retardation or other developmental disabilities who receive, or have received in the past, habilitation services from the District who have had consent given by District officials for any elective surgical procedure at any time since 1970. Compl. ¶ 22. Under plaintiffs' plan, the liability phase of the case would be certified pursuant to 23(b)(2) ("Stage I"), and the damages portion of the case would be addressed at a later date ("Stage II").

B. The Plaintiffs

Three plaintiffs seek to represent the class.

1. Jane Doe I

Plaintiff Jane Doe I is a forty-three-year-old woman who has received habilitation services from the District of Columbia since 1960. In 1984, she became pregnant with her second child, previously having given birth to a healthy boy without developmental disabilities. District officials tried to stop Jane Doe I from having the baby by requesting that she have an abortion, but Jane Doe I refused. Nevertheless, against Jane Doe I's wishes, District officials gave their consent for the abortion, which was subsequently performed. District officials neither consulted with Jane Doe I's legal representative, nor obtained substituted judgment from a court. See Compl. ¶¶ 12-15.

2. Jane Doe II

Plaintiff Jane Doe II was diagnosed in 1994 with exotropia, a condition where one eye deviates from the other. An elective surgical procedure was proposed. District officials gave their consent for the surgical procedure. Jane Doe II's mother and court-appointed advocate was not consulted, although she was active in Jane Doe II's care. ...


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