Kremens v. Bartley
Annotate this Case
431 U.S. 119 (1977)
U.S. Supreme Court
Kremens v. Bartley, 431 U.S. 119 (1977)
Kremens v. Bartley
Argued December 1, 1976
Decided May 16, 1977
431 U.S. 119
Appellees, five mentally ill individuals who were between 15 and 18 years old at the time the complaint was filed, were the named plaintiffs in an action challenging the constitutionality of a 1966 Pennsylvania statute governing the voluntary admission and voluntary commitment to state mental health institutions of persons aged 18 or younger. Appellees sought to vindicate their constitutional rights and to represent a class consisting of all persons under 18 "who have been, are, or, may be admitted or committed" to state mental health facilities. The statute provided, inter alia, that a juvenile might be admitted upon a parent's application, and that, unlike an adult, the admitted person was free to withdraw only with the consent of the parent admitting him. After the commencement of the action, regulations were promulgated substantially increasing the procedural safeguards afforded minors aged 13 or older. After those regulations had become effective, and notwithstanding the differentiation therein between juveniles of less than 13 and those 13 to 18, the District Court certified the class to be represented by the plaintiffs as consisting of all persons 18 or younger who have been or may be admitted or committed to Pennsylvania mental health facilities pursuant to the challenged provisions. The District Court later issued a decision holding those provisions violative of due process. In July, 1976, after that decision, and after this Court had noted probable jurisdiction, a new statute was enacted, repealing the provisions held to be unconstitutional except insofar as they relate to the mentally retarded. Under the 1976 Act, a person 14 or over may voluntarily admit himself, but his parents may not do so; thus, those 14 to 18 who were subject to commitment by their parents under the 1966 Act are treated as adults by the 1976 Act. Children 13 and younger may still be admitted for treatment by a parent. Those f4 and over may withdraw from voluntary treatment by giving written notice. Those under 14 may be released on the parent's request, and "any responsible party" may petition for release.
1. The enactment of the 1976 Act, which completely repealed and replaced the challenged provisions vis-a-vis the named appellees, clearly
moots the claims of the named appellees, who are treated as adults totally free to leave the hospital and who cannot be forced to return unless they consent to do so. Pp. 431 U. S. 128-129.
2. The material changes in the status of those included in the class certified by the District Court that resulted from the 1976 Act and the regulations preclude an informed resolution of that class' constitutional claims. Pp. 431 U. S. 129-133.
(a) Though the mootness of the claims of named plaintiffs does not "inexorably" require dismissal of the claims of the unnamed members of the class, Sosna v. Iowa, 419 U. S. 393; Franks v. Bowman Transportation Co., 424 U. S. 747, this Court has never adopted a flat rule that the mere fact of certification by a district court requires resolution of the merits of the claims of the unnamed members of the class when those of the named parties had become moot. Pp. 431 U. S. 129-130.
(b) Here, the status of all members of the class, except those individuals who are younger than 13 and mentally retarded, has changed materially since this suit began; the intervening legislation has fragmented the class. The propriety of the class certification is thus a matter of gravest doubt. Cf. Indianapolis School Comm'rs v. Jacobs, 420 U. S. 128. Pp. 431 U. S. 130-133.
(c) Moreover, the issue in this case with respect to a properly certified class is not one that is "capable of repetition, yet evading review." Sosna, supra, distinguished. P. 431 U. S. 133.
3. Since none of the critical factors that might allow adjudication of the claims of a class after mootness of the named plaintiffs' claims are present here, the case must be remanded to the District Court for reconsideration of the class definition, exclusion of those whose claims are moot, and substitution of class representatives with live claims. Pp. 431 U. S. 133-135.
402 F.Supp. 1039, vacated and remanded.
REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, J., joined, post, p. 431 U. S. 137.