474 U.S. 64 (1985), 84-6270, Green v. Mansour

Docket Nº:No. 84-6270
Citation:474 U.S. 64, 106 S.Ct. 423, 88 L.Ed.2d 371, 54 U.S.L.W. 4011
Party Name:Green v. Mansour
Case Date:December 03, 1985
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 64

474 U.S. 64 (1985)

106 S.Ct. 423, 88 L.Ed.2d 371, 54 U.S.L.W. 4011

Green

v.

Mansour

No. 84-6270

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 3, 1985

Argued October 7, 1985

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE SIXTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

Petitioner recipients of benefits under the federal Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) program brought class actions in Federal District Court against respondent Director of the Michigan Department of Social Services. They claimed that respondent's policies of prohibiting the deduction of child care costs and requiring the inclusion of stepparents' income for purposes of calculating earned income, thereby determining eligibility for and the amount of AFDC benefits, violated applicable federal law. Petitioners sought an injunction, a declaratory judgment, and "notice relief." While the actions were pending, Congress amended the relevant federal statute to expressly require States to deduct child care expenses and to include stepparents' income. Granting respondent's motions to dismiss in each case, the District Court held that the changes in federal law rendered moot the claims for prospective relief, that the remaining claims for declaratory and "notice relief " related solely to past violations of federal law, and that such retrospective relief was barred by the Eleventh Amendment. The Court [106 S.Ct. 424] of Appeals affirmed in a consolidated appeal.

Held:

1. Petitioners are not entitled to "notice relief." Since there is no continuing violation of federal law to enjoin, and therefore no valid injunction to which notice could attach, the notice cannot be justified as a mere case-management device that is ancillary to a judgment awarding valid prospective relief. Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332, distinguished. Absent these conditions, the Eleventh Amendment limitation on the Art. III power of federal courts prevents them from ordering "notice relief" against States, because it is not the type of remedy designed to prevent ongoing violations of supreme federal law. Pp. 68-72.

2. Nor are petitioners entitled to a declaratory judgment that respondent violated federal law in the past. Where there is no claimed continuing violation of federal law or any threat of future violation, a declaratory judgment is inappropriate, because its purpose could only be to provide a federal judgment on the issue of liability with the hope that it would be res judicata in state court proceedings, leaving to the state courts only a form of accounting proceeding whereby damages or restitution

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would be computed. This would be an inappropriate exercise of federal judicial power, because it would have much the same effect as an award of damages or restitution, which kinds of relief against States are prohibited by the Eleventh Amendment. Pp. 72-73.

742 F.2d 277, affirmed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, POWELL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 74. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 79. BLACKMUN, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN, MARSHALL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 81.

REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioners brought two separate class actions in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan against respondent Director of the Michigan Department of Social Services, claiming that respondent's calculations of benefits under the federal Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) program violated certain provisions of that federal law. Before a final determination on the merits of either case could be made, Congress amended the relevant statutory provisions. It is undisputed that respondent's calculations thereafter have conformed to federal law. Notwithstanding this fact, petitioners claim that they were entitled to have the District Court award them both "notice relief" and a declaration that respondent's prior conduct violated federal law. The District Court denied petitioners both forms of relief, and the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed. We now affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals, holding that the Eleventh Amendment

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to the United States Constitution and applicable principles governing the issuance of declaratory judgments forbid the award of either form of relief.

The two class actions involved in this case were brought on behalf of recipients of benefits disbursed under the AFDC program. See 42 U.S.C. §§ 601-615. The AFDC program uses a person's earned income in determining eligibility for, and the amount of, benefits. See § 602. The complaints alleged that certain of respondent's policies and regulations violated 42 U.S.C. § 1983 by inflating their respective class members' earned income, and thereby causing a reduction or termination of AFDC [106 S.Ct. 425] benefits contrary to the applicable federal law.

One putative class challenged respondent's policy of prohibiting the deduction of child care costs in the calculation of earned income. While the case was pending in the District Court, Congress changed the relevant provisions of the AFDC program to expressly require participating States to deduct child care expenses up to a specified amount. Respondent thereafter brought state policy into compliance with this amendment and began deducting child care expenses in the calculation of earned income. There is no claim that respondent's current child care deduction policy violates federal law.

The other putative class challenged respondent's policy of automatically including stepparents' income in the calculation of earned income. The District Court issued a preliminary injunction preventing respondent from enforcing its automatic inclusion policy. But again, while the matter was pending on the merits, Congress amended the relevant section of the AFDC program to expressly require States to include stepparent income in the calculation of earned income. The parties thereafter stipulated that the District Court should terminate its preliminary injunction as of the effective date of the amendment. Here too, there is no claim that respondent has not complied with federal law since that time.

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The District Court granted respondent's motions to dismiss in each case. It held in each that the changes in federal law rendered moot the claims for prospective relief, and that the remaining claims for declaratory and notice relief related solely to past violations of federal law. Such retrospective relief, the court determined, is barred by the Eleventh Amendment.

The Court of Appeals affirmed in a consolidated appeal. Banas v. Dempsey, 742 F.2d 277 (1984). It agreed that the changes in federal law rendered moot the claims for prospective relief. Id. at 281-283. It also agreed that, because the sought-after notice and declaratory relief was retrospective in nature, the relief was barred by Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651 (1974). 742 F.2d at 286-288. It reasoned that, when there is no prospective relief to which notice can be ancillary, even notice of the sort approved in Quern v. Jordan, 440 U.S. 332 (1979), cannot escape the Eleventh Amendment bar. 742 F.2d at 287-288. Declaratory relief is similarly barred under such circumstances, it explained, because such relief could relate solely to past violations of federal law. Id. at 288.

We granted certiorari to resolve a conflict in the Circuits over whether federal courts may order the giving of notice of the sort approved in Quern v. Jordan, supra, or issue a declaratory judgment that state officials violated federal law in the past when there is no ongoing violation of federal law. The decision by the Court of Appeals in this case agrees with the result in Colbeth v. Wilson, 554 F.Supp. 539 (Vt.1982), aff'd, 707 F.2d 57 (CA2 1983) (per curiam), but it conflicts with the decisions in Appleyard v. Wallace, 754 F.2d 955, 959-963 (CA11 1985); Randall v. Lukhard, 729 F.2d 966 (CA4) (en banc), cert. denied, 469 U.S. 872 (1984); Beltran v. Myers, 701 F.2d 91, 94 (CA9) (per curiam), cert. denied, 462 U.S. 1134 (1983); and Silva v. Vowell, 621 F.2d 640, 650-654 (CA5 1980), which all allowed notice relief even though changes in state policy or federal law rendered moot

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any claim for injunctive relief stopping ongoing violations of federal law. We now affirm the decision of the Court of Appeals.

The Eleventh Amendment confirms that "the fundamental principle of sovereign immunity limits the grant of judicial authority in Art. III." Pennhurst State School & Hospital v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 98 (1984). Because of the Eleventh Amendment, States may not be sued in federal court unless they consent to it in unequivocal terms or unless Congress, pursuant to a [106 S.Ct. 426] valid exercise of power, unequivocally expresses its intent to abrogate the immunity. Id. at 99. The landmark case of Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123 (1908), created an exception to this general principle by asserting that a suit challenging the constitutionality of a state official's action in enforcing state law is not one against the State. Id. at 159-160. The theory of Young was that an unconstitutional statute is void, id. at 159, and therefore does not "impart to [the official] any immunity from responsibility to the supreme authority of the United States." Id. at 160. Young also held that the Eleventh Amendment does not prevent federal courts from granting prospective injunctive relief to prevent a continuing violation of federal law. Id. at 155-156, 159. We have refused to extend the reasoning of Young, however, to claims for retrospective relief. See Pennhurst, supra, at 102-103; Quern v. Jordan, supra, at 337; Edelman v. Jordan, supra, at 668.

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