602 F.2d 1156 (3rd Cir. 1979), 78-2247, Shands v. Tull

Docket Nº:78-2247.
Citation:602 F.2d 1156
Party Name:CA 79-2877 Lorraine SHANDS, Individually and on behalf of all persons similarly situated, v. Thomas TULL, Individually and in his capacity as Director of the Camden County Welfare Board, and G. Thomas Riti, Individually and in his capacity as Director of the Division of Public Welfare of the State of New Jersey, and Ann Klein, Individually and in h
Case Date:July 24, 1979
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Page 1156

602 F.2d 1156 (3rd Cir. 1979)

CA 79-2877 Lorraine SHANDS, Individually and on behalf of

all persons similarly situated,

v.

Thomas TULL, Individually and in his capacity as Director of

the Camden County Welfare Board, and G. Thomas Riti,

Individually and in his capacity as Director of the Division

of Public Welfare of the State of New Jersey, and Ann Klein,

Individually and in her capacity as Commissioner of the

Department of Institutions and agencies of the State of New Jersey.

Winslow L. THOMAS, Individually and on behalf of all persons

similarly situated,

v.

David MATHEWS, Individually and in his capacity as Secretary

of Health, Education and Welfare, and Ann Klein,

Individually and in her capacity as Commissioner of the

Department of Institutions and Agencies of the State of New

Jersey, and G. Thomas Riti, Individually and in his capacity

as Director of the Division of Public Welfare of the State

of New Jersey.

Alvania RICHBERG, Individually and on behalf of all persons

similarly situated,

v.

Joseph CALIFANO, Jr., Individually and in his capacity as

Secretary of the U. S. Department of Health, Education and

Welfare, and Ann Klein, Individually and in her capacity as

Commissioner of the Department of Institutions and Agencies

of the State of New Jersey, and G. Thomas Riti, Individually

and in his capacity as Director of the Division of Public

Welfare of the State of New Jersey.

Ann Klein and G. Thomas Riti, Director, New Jersey Division

of Public Welfare, New Jersey Commissioner of

Human Services, Appellants.

No. 78-2247.

United States Court of Appeals, Third Circuit

July 24, 1979

Argued June 5, 1979.

Page 1157

John J. Degnan, Atty. Gen., N. J., Stephen Skillman, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jeffrey W. Jones (argued), Deputy Atty. Gen., Trenton, N. J., for appellants.

Donald M. Ackerman, Thomas Wuersig, Camden Regional Legal Services, Inc., Camden, N. J., for appellees.

Before ADAMS, ROSENN, Circuit Judges, and LAYTON, District Judge [*].

OPINION

ROSENN, Circuit Judge.

In this case we must consider the role of the federal courts in enforcing federal regulations governing state welfare programs that receive federal subsidies. The United States District Court for the District of New Jersey enjoined the State of New Jersey ("New Jersey" or the "State") from violating a federal regulation that requires the State to take final administrative action within ninety days on any appeal from the denial of a claim under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children ("AFDC") program. The district court ordered that in any cases in which the ninety-day limit was exceeded, the State had to pay interim benefits to the aggrieved applicants while their appeals were pending. We reverse.

I.

The appellees ("claimants") sought AFDC benefits from New Jersey. One claimant was applying for initial benefits; another sought an increase in the payments being made to him; a third contested a reduction intended to recoup past payments to which she allegedly had not been entitled. In all of the cases, welfare officials in New Jersey denied the claims, and the claimants took administrative appeals.

Under federal regulations, New Jersey should have completed the administrative appeals within ninety days. 45 C.F.R. § 205.10(16) (1978). As the State avers, without dispute, it instead took from 94 to 111 days. In their own behalf and in behalf of all those similarly situated, the claimants brought suit in the federal district court contesting the legality of these delays under the regulation and under the Due Process Clause of the fourteenth amendment.

Page 1158

The claimants named as defendants various officials of New Jersey and the Secretary of the federal Department of Health, Education and Welfare ("HEW"). The district court certified the proposed class of plaintiffs.

As the district court found on the basis of studies undertaken in the wake of this suit, in the period from November 1976 to January 1977, New Jersey completed 83% Of the administrative appeals (known as "fair hearing decisions") within ninety days. In the period from June 1977 to August 1977, the proportion of timely adjudications had grown to 96%, which represented 400 out of 417 cases. As for the category of cases in which the State, on appeal, changed its initial decision, reports from the first period showed that appeals in only 20% Of those cases were brought to completion within ninety days. By the period from June to August 1977, the figure was 76%. In that period, the 24% Of such appeals exceeding the ninety-day limit constituted merely 17 cases, and in 5 of these cases the State had continued to pay undiminished benefits during the appeals, so that there was no hardship to those particular claimants.

The district court granted summary judgment for the claimants. It concluded that the federal regulation setting the ninety-day standard demanded total rather than substantial compliance. To ensure compliance, the court granted a permanent injunction commanding observance of the ninety-day limit, and if the State failed to complete an appeal and implement the decision within ninety days, the court ordered the State to provide the claimant with the requested benefits until administrative action was concluded. This provision for interim relief did not apply to applications for one-time grants. The district court's injunction ran only to the officials of New Jersey and not to the Secretary of HEW. The state officials have appealed. Because the injunction does not end the dispute as to all of the parties it is interlocutory. We have jurisdiction, however, under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1) (1976). Cf. Hook v. Hook & Ackerman, Inc., 213 F.2d 122, 128-29 (3d Cir. 1954) (grant of permanent injunction interlocutory when other claims between parties still pending before district court).

II.

The claimants allege a violation by the State of the Due Process Clause and of the regulation cited above. New Jersey disputes the jurisdiction of the district court over the claim that the State violated a federal regulation. The claimants, who asserted causes of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (1976), argue that the district court had two grounds on which to exercise jurisdiction: 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3) (1976) and 28 U.S.C. § 1331(a) (1976). Because we find jurisdiction under section 1343(3), we do not reach the issue of jurisdiction under section 1331(a).

Section 1343(3) vests jurisdiction in the district court over any civil action

To redress the deprivation, under color of any State law, statute, ordinance, regulation, custom or usage, of any right, privilege or immunity secured by the Constitution of the United States or by any Act of Congress providing for equal rights of citizens or of all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States . . . .

The claimants do not advance any argument that 42 U.S.C. § 602(a) (1976), under which the ninety-day regulation was promulgated, is an "Act of Congress providing for equal rights . . . ." Nor do they contend that, within the terms of section 1343(3), 42 U.S.C. § 1983 is such an Act of Congress. See Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Organization, --- U.S. ----, 99 S.Ct. 1905, 60 L.Ed.2d 508 (1979). Their argument is that their constitutional claim, brought under section 1343(3), was sufficient to give the district court pendent jurisdiction over the claim concerning the federal regulation.

According to Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 536-37, 94 S.Ct. 1372, 39 L.Ed.2d 577 (1974), a constitutional claim will support pendent jurisdiction if that constitutional claim is not "wholly insubstantial," "obviously frivolous," or "no longer open to question." Although the claimants' constitutional

Page 1159

argument may be weak, we hold that it meets this lenient standard and warrants the exercise of pendent jurisdiction. The claimants allege that delays of longer than ninety days in administrative appeals deprive them, without due process, of the property rights in welfare benefits recognized by Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 90 S.Ct. 1011, 25 L.Ed.2d 287 (1970). 1 There is authority for the argument that a delay in rendering a decision about property could, at some point, constitute a denial of due process. Discussing a due process claim in a different context, the Supreme Court has written:

(T)he possible length of wrongful deprivation of unemployment benefits is an important...

To continue reading

FREE SIGN UP