124 F.R.D. 52 (S.D.N.Y. 1989), 87 CV 5779 (KMW), Luyando v. Bowen

Docket Nº87 CV 5779 (KMW).
Citation124 F.R.D. 52
Opinion JudgeKIMBA M. WOOD, District Judge.
Party NameCarmen LUYANDO, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff, v. Otis R. BOWEN, as Secretary of Health and Human Services, William J. Grinker, as Commissioner of The City of New York Human Resources Administration and on behalf of all others similarly situated, and Cesar A. Perales, as Commissioner of the State of New York
AttorneyMarshall Green, Steven Godeski, Ian F. Feldman, The Legal Aid Soc., New York City, for plaintiff. Diogenes P. Kekatos, Asst. U.S. Atty., Rudolph Giuliani, U.S. Atty., New York City, for Bowen. Lina Liberatore, Asst. Corp. Counsel, Peter L. Zimroth, Corp. Counsel, New York City, for Grinker. Rober...
Case DateJanuary 12, 1989
CourtUnited States District Courts, 2nd Circuit, Southern District of New York

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124 F.R.D. 52 (S.D.N.Y. 1989)

Carmen LUYANDO, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiff,

v.

Otis R. BOWEN, as Secretary of Health and Human Services, William J. Grinker, as Commissioner of The City of New York Human Resources Administration and on behalf of all others similarly situated, and Cesar A. Perales, as Commissioner of the State of New York Department of Social Services, Defendants.

No. 87 CV 5779 (KMW).

United States District Court, S.D. New York.

January 12, 1989

In action arising out of federal and state regulations that provide for " pass-through" of child-support payments to participants in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, plaintiff moved for certification of plaintiff and defendant classes. The District Court, Kimba M. Wood, J., held that certification of plaintiff class and defendant class was appropriate.

Motion granted.

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Marshall Green, Steven Godeski, Ian F. Feldman, The Legal Aid Soc., New York City, for plaintiff.

Diogenes P. Kekatos, Asst. U.S. Atty., Rudolph Giuliani, U.S. Atty., New York City, for Bowen.

Lina Liberatore, Asst. Corp. Counsel, Peter L. Zimroth, Corp. Counsel, New York City, for Grinker.

Robert J. Schack, Asst. Atty. Gen., Robert Abrams, Atty. Gen., New York City, for Perales.

OPINION AND ORDER

KIMBA M. WOOD, District Judge.

This action arises out of federal and state regulations that provide for the " pass-through" of child-support payments to participants in the Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) program, who must assign their rights to child support to the state; the state " passes-through" the first $50 collected each month to the AFDC participant. Plaintiff challenges as unconstitutional the state and federal regulations that provide for this " pass-through" only if the money is collected in the month it is due. Plaintiff has moved for certification of plaintiff and defendant classes. For the

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reasons below, plaintiff's motion is granted.

I. STATUTORY AND REGULATORY FRAMEWORK

The AFDC program is aimed at encouraging the care of dependent children in their own homes or in the homes of relatives financially unable to provide for these children. 42 U.S.C. § 601. The program is a federal-state cooperative effort.

As a condition of eligibility for receiving assistance under the AFDC program, parents are required to assign their rights to child support payment to their state. 42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(26). 42 U.S.C. § 657(b)(1) provides:

[T]he first $50 of such amounts as are collected periodically which represent monthly support payments shall be paid to the family without affecting its eligibility for assistance or decreasing any amount otherwise payable as assistance to such family during such month.

Defendant Bowen is charged with promulgating regulations to implement this statutory provision. 45 C.F.R. § 302.51(b)(1) provides:

Of any amount that is collected in a month which represents payment on the required support obligation for that month, the first $50 of such amount shall be paid to the family.... If the amount collected includes payment on the required support obligation for a previous month or months, the family shall only receive the first $50 of the amount which represents the required support obligation for the month in which the support was collected.

Defendant Perales has in turn promulgated 18 N.Y.C.R.R. § 352.15(a), which in pertinent part mirrors the federal regulation. It provides:

The first $50 per household per month of support payments collected by the Child Support Collection Unit toward the monthly support obligation for the household shall be paid to the public assistance household as a special payment. This payment is made only with respect to current support collections, not arrears.

As agents of the State, each social services district commissioner is bound to follow both regulations. See Social Services Law (SSL) §§ 20 and 65.

II. PLAINTIFF'S CLAIMS

Plaintiff claims that the federal and state regulations violate their rights under 42 U.S.C. § 657(b)(1), the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment, and the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution. They seek a declaratory judgment, injunctive relief, and retroactive benefits.

Plaintiff seeks to certify both a plaintiff class and a defendant class. The proposed plaintiff class is defined as all persons who:

(a) Reside, have resided or will reside in the State of New York and have received, receive or will receive benefits under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program; and

(b) Have had, since October 1, 1984, or will have support collected under the Child Support Enforcement program on their behalf by Human Resources Administration (HRA) or a defendant class member; and

(c) Have not received or will not receive the first $50 of each month's support payment collected periodically by HRA or a defendant class member unless the support payment is received in the month in which it is due.

The defendant class shall be defined as all persons who are commissioners of social services districts in New York State.1

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III. CERTIFICATION OF PLAINTIFF CLASS 2

A. Rule 23(a)

A plaintiff bears the burden of establishing the right to maintain a class action under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 23. To do so, plaintiff must meet all the requirements of Rule 23(a), and at least one of the requirements of 23(b).

The four prerequisites required by Rule 23(a) are:

(1) the class is so numerous that joinder of all members is impracticable, (2) there are questions of law or fact common to the class, (3) the claims or defenses of the representative parties are typical of the claims or defenses of the class, and (4) the representative parties will fairly and adequately protect the interests of the class.

Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(a). Defendants do not dispute that plaintiff has satisfied prerequisites 1, 3, and 4 (numerosity, typicality, and fair and adequate representation).

As to numerosity, it is well settled that " plaintiffs need not demonstrate with precision the number of persons in the purported class to satisfy the requirement that joinder be impracticable where such a conclusion is clear from reasonable estimates." Deary v. Guardian Loan Co., Inc., 534 F.Supp. 1178, 1190 (S.D.N.Y.1982). Plaintiff's undisputed estimate is that the class exceeds one thousand persons. In addition, plaintiff has shown that the class members are scattered throughout the state, and that, given the small amount of money that is likely to be involved for each person, it is impractical for each person...

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