331 F.3d 261 (2nd Cir. 2003), 02-7022(L), Henrietta D. v. Bloomberg

Docket Nº:02-7022(L)
Citation:331 F.3d 261
Party Name:Henrietta D. v. Bloomberg
Case Date:June 09, 2003
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

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331 F.3d 261 (2nd Cir. 2003)

HENRIETTA D., Henrietta S., Simone A., Ezzard S., John R., Pedro R., on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellees,


Michael R. BLOOMBERG,1 Mayor of the City of New York, Marva Hammons, Administrator of the New York City Human Resources Administration and Commissioner of the New York City Department of Social Services, and Marva E. Glass, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Social Services, Defendants-Appellants.

Nos. 02-7022(L), 02-7074(CON).

United States Court of Appeals, Second Circuit

June 9, 2003

Argued: Sept. 26, 2002.

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Susan J. Kohlmann (Karen B. Dine, David Oakland, Carolina A. Fornos, Heather Bridgid Conoboy, on the brief), Pillsbury Winthrop LLP, New York, New York; Victoria Neilson, HIV Law Project, New York, NY; Armen H. Merjian, Jennifer Sinton, Virginia Shubert, Housing Works, Inc., New York, New York, on behalf of Plaintiffs-Appellees.

Edward F.X. Hart, Assistant Corporation Counsel (Leonard Koerner, Georgia M. Pestana, on the brief), for Michael A. Cardozo, Corporation Counsel of the City of New York, New York, New York, on behalf of Defendants-Appellants Rudolph Giuliani and Marva Hammons.

Vincent Leong, Assistant Attorney General (Michael S. Belohlavek, Deputy Solicitor General, Deon Nossel, Assistant Solicitor General, on the brief), for Eliot Spitzer, Attorney General of the State of New York, New York, New York, on behalf of Defendant-Appellant Marva E. Glass.

Ralph F. Boyd, Jr., Assistant Attorney General, Jessica Dunsany Silver, Seth M. Galanter, Attorneys, United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Appellate Section--PHB, Washington, DC, on behalf of Amicus Curiae the United States.

Before: MESKILL, SACK, and KATZMANN, Circuit Judges.

KATZMANN, Circuit Judge.

The plaintiffs in this civil rights litigation, indigent New York City residents who suffer from AIDS and other HIV-related illnesses, are clients of New York City's Division of AIDS Services and Income Support ("DASIS"), an agency whose sole function is to assist persons with HIV-related diseases in obtaining public assistance benefits and services. The plaintiffs allege that in spite of DASIS's existence (and in part due to DASIS's ineffectiveness), New York City and New York State are failing to provide them with adequate access to public benefits, and are thereby violating various federal and state statutes, regulations, and constitutional provisions.

Following a bench trial in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York (Johnson, J.), the District Court found in plaintiffs' favor, holding that defendants Rudolph Giuliani, as then-Mayor of New York City, and Marva Hammons, as Administrator of the New York City Human Resources Administration and the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Social Services (together, the "city defendants"), by failing to provide adequate access to public benefits and services, had "violated Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 [ (the "ADA") ], 42 U.S.C. § 12131 et seq. and its implementing regulations; Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 and its implementing regulations; 42 U.S.C. §§ 1396(a)(8), (a)(19) [sic], 2 ... 42 C.F.R. §§ 435.911(a)

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and (b), and 7 C.F.R. § 273.2, and 42 C.F.R. § 206.10(a)(i); " New York State Social Services Law and implementing regulations and administrative directives; the Due Process clause of the New York State and United States Constitutions; and Article XVII, Sections 1 and 3 of the New York State Constitution." Henrietta D. v. Giuliani, 119 F.Supp.2d 181, 220-21 (E.D.N.Y.2000). It also held defendant Marva E. Glass (the "state defendant"), as Commissioner of the New York State Department of Social Services, vicariously liable for violating the same provisions of the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act based on the violations of the city defendants. Id. at 221. The District Court ordered injunctive relief against all defendants. All defendants appeal the District Court's findings of liability against them and the District Court's imposition of injunctive relief. Because we conclude that the alleged general failure of New York City's public benefits system in this case does not excuse the city defendants from their duty under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act to ensure that the plaintiff class-members have meaningful access to the benefits to which they are facially entitled, we affirm as to those defendants. Additionally, because we agree with the District Court that the state defendant was subject to suit under the ADA, not shielded by sovereign immunity, and possessed of an obligation to supervise the effective delivery of benefits granted as part of New York State's agreement with the United States, we also affirm as to the state defendant.


The certified plaintiff class consists of "[a]ll DAS-eligible 3 persons, i.e., persons who are New York City residents, are Medicaid eligible and meet the medical condition of having either (1) CD Cdefined AIDS, or (2) an HIV-related condition and a need for home care services." Henrietta D. v. Giuliani, No. 95 Civ. 0641, 1996 WL 633382, at *16 (E.D.N.Y. Oct. 25, 1996). The members of the class assert that they face unique physical hurdles in attempting to access certain public assistance benefits and services. They claim that DASIS, the New York City agency charged with helping them access such benefits and services, is ineffective and systemically fails to achieve its goals. The plaintiffs seek injunctive relief ordering the defendants, various city and state officials charged with implementing New York's social services system, to provide the benefits to which the plaintiff class is entitled.

1. The Social Services Network

Before turning to the plaintiffs' specific complaints, it is necessary briefly to canvass the structure of the New York public benefits system. Congress has authorized the grant of federal money to consenting States in exchange for promises that the States will provide to qualifying individuals certain forms of public assistance, such as food stamps, welfare benefits, and Medicaid coverage. See, e.g., 7 U.S.C. §§ 2011-2036 (food stamps); 42 U.S.C.§§ 601-619 (assistance to needy families); 42 U.S.C.

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§§ 1396-1396v (Medicaid). Pursuant to such a federal-state cooperative program, New York provides eligible New Yorkers with public financial assistance benefits, see, e.g., N.Y. Soc. Serv. Law §§ 131-a, 157 to 59, 348 to 49, Medicaid benefits, see N.Y. Soc. Serv. Law §§ 363 to 39, and food stamps, see N.Y. Soc. Serv. Law § 95. The New York State Department of Social Services 4 oversees the statewide benefits system, but the programs are administered on a day-to-day basis by 58 local county districts, one of which is New York City. See N.Y. Soc. Serv. Law § 61. "In the administration of public assistance funds, whether they come from Federal, State, or local sources, the authority and responsibility is that of the county commissioners of social services, not the counties; the local commissioners act on behalf of and as agents for the State." Beaudoin v. Toia, 45 N.Y.2d 343, 408 N.Y.S.2d 417, 380 N.E.2d 246, 247 (1978). While the local agencies operate the benefits system, including processing applications for benefits and making eligibility determinations, the state agency is required to "supervise all social services work." N.Y. Soc. Serv. Law § 20(2)(b). The state agency oversees the local districts largely through administration of a "fair hearing" system whereby applicants for, and recipients of, state-provided public benefits may challenge local district decisions before an impartial administrative law judge, and may ultimately seek judicial review. See N.Y. Soc. Serv. Law § 22. Thus, both the city defendants and the state defendant play a role in the administration of New York's social services system, and the nature of the relationship between the state defendant and the city defendants is a key issue that we explore below.


The City of New York sought in 1997 to assist its HIV-afflicted residents in their efforts to access public services and benefits by combining under one umbrella several city agencies that endeavored to assist that population. See N.Y. City Admin. Code § 21-126 et seq. ("the DASIS law"). The DASIS law aims to "provide access to [publicly subsidized benefits and services] to every person with clinical/symptomatic HIV illness ... or with AIDS." N.Y. City Admin. Code § 21-126. The DASIS law specifically locates DASIS within the New York City Department of Social Services. See id. ("There shall be a division of AIDS services within the New York city department of social services.").

The DASIS law imposes procedural rules designed to facilitate access to existing federal, state, and local welfare benefits and also mandates certain benefits that can arguably be characterized as additional substantive benefits. Procedural rules include, for example, an "intensive case management" requirement with specified minimum caseworker-client ratios, see N.Y. City Admin. Code § 21-127, and a requirement that services or benefits be provided within twenty business days of an application where no law or regulation provides a different time frame, see N.Y. City Admin. Code § 21-128(c)(2). Most of the services and benefits to which DASIS

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helps facilitate access are programs available to non-disabled individuals in addition to the plaintiff class, and the DASIS law makes clear that "[a]ny eligible person shall receive only those benefits and services for which such person qualifies in accordance with the...

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