621 F.2d 640 (5th Cir. 1980), 79-2905, Silva v. Vowell

Docket Nº:79-2905.
Citation:621 F.2d 640
Party Name:Delfino SILVA and Jose Miranda, Jr., Individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. Raymond W. VOWELL, Individually and in his capacity as Commissioner of the Texas Department of Public Welfare, and the State Department of Public Welfare, Defendants-Appellants.
Case Date:June 26, 1980
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 640

621 F.2d 640 (5th Cir. 1980)

Delfino SILVA and Jose Miranda, Jr., Individually and on

behalf of all others similarly situated,

Plaintiffs-Appellees,

v.

Raymond W. VOWELL, Individually and in his capacity as

Commissioner of the Texas Department of Public

Welfare, and the State Department of

Public Welfare, Defendants-Appellants.

No. 79-2905.

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

June 26, 1980

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Kathryn A. Reed, Asst. Atty. Gen., Austin, Tex., for defendants-appellants.

Gerald A. Garcia, Texas Rural Legal Aid, Inc., Harlingen, Tex., Jose Antonio Gomez, Oficina Legal Del Pueblo Unido, San Juan, Tex., for plaintiffs-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas.

Before TJOFLAT, RUBIN and TATE, Circuit Judges.

TATE, Circuit Judge:

This class action suit challenges the Texas incapacity eligibility standard for receipt of benefits under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. The plaintiffs, Delfino Silva and Jose Miranda, are AFDC applicants, and they filed a class action in December of 1975 attacking the Texas incapacity standard. Without detailing the specifics of their complaint, it is sufficient for the moment to say that the district judge granted summary judgment for the plaintiffs on the only substantive claim that had not been mooted by a subsequent revision of the Texas regulations. Further, although retroactive benefits were denied, the court certified the class and ordered the defendants to pay for preparing and mailing an explanatory notice to the class members, explaining that the regulations had been changed and that the class members had a right to reapply for benefits. The defendants, the Texas Department of Public Welfare (currently the Texas Department of Human Resources) and its Commissioner, Raymond W. Vowell, now appeal from the district court's ruling on the following grounds: 1) that the district court lacked jurisdiction over the subject matter of this litigation; 2) that the named plaintiffs do not have standing to represent the class; and 3) that requiring the defendants to bear the expense of preparing and mailing the notice to the class violates the Eleventh Amendment. For the reasons discussed below, we affirm in part and remand in part.

Context of the Issues

As will be more particularly shown in an appendix to this opinion (History of the Litigation ), the attack by the defendants on the trial court's jurisdiction and the plaintiffs' standing to continue this class action arises in the following context.

The class action suit, as initially brought in 1975, contested primarily the eligibility requirement for aid to dependent children that disqualified the families of dependent children from such aid if the father was "capable of light work." There is no doubt that both plaintiffs had standing to assert such claim as class representatives. In May, 1978, the suit was broadened to attack other facets of the disability requirements, including pertinently the requirement that prevented the families of dependent children from receiving welfare payments unless their fathers would be (or would continue to be) disabled for sixty days or more. At this time, the defendants stated (admittedly in equivocal terms, see note 12, infra ) that they had no objection to certification of the class. At the same time, a showing was made that administrative revision of the other disability requirements in the Texas AFDC Handbook would moot all of the plaintiffs' substantive contentions except that pertaining to the sixty-day disability requirement. In December, 1978, the district court granted summary judgment for the plaintiffs invalidating the sixty-day requirement.

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In April, 1979, the defendants for the first time filed a motion to dismiss for want of jurisdiction. The defendants also objected for the first time that the plaintiffs were not adequate class representatives because they themselves had not been denied benefits because of the sixty-day eligibility period but rather because they were "capable of light work." As the district court noted, the invalid "capable of light work" requirement had been revised as a result of this class action; one consequence of the judgment below is that the defendants must send out notices to all applicants who were denied, improperly, eligibility for welfare benefits by reason of this requirement. However, the certification of the class to which no objection by the defendants had been urged in May, 1978 and the description of which the defendants had approved when it was formalized in June, 1979 included all Texas residents who since October, 1976 had had applications for AFDC welfare payments rejected or benefits terminated because of the improper Texas disability standard (including both the "capable of light work" and the sixty-day disability requirements). The record also shows that the plaintiff Silva, although now receiving AFDC payments because of the elimination of the "capable of light work" requirement, is subject to termination of his benefits by reason of the sixty-day disability requirement should his disability lessen into one of this temporary duration.

I.

The first issue that must be resolved is whether the district court had jurisdiction. The defendants rely on the Supreme Court's holding in Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Organization, 441 U.S. 600, 99 S.Ct. 1905, 60 L.Ed.2d 508 (1979), that a federal court has no jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1343 1 and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 2 to hear a claim that is wholly based on a conflict between state and federal law. 3 In view of Chapman, it is not disputed that the district court did not have jurisdiction unless the plaintiffs presented the court with a substantial constitutional claim. 4

The plaintiffs argue that the district court correctly ruled that there was a substantial

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constitutional claim and that consequently the court had pendent jurisdiction over the statutory claim concerning a conflict between state and federal law. 5 The defendants, on the other hand, contend: a) that there never was a substantial constitutional claim; and b) that the plaintiffs' allegedly substantial constitutional claims are really nothing more than an attempt to circumvent the ruling in Chapman.

(a) Was There a Substantial Constitutional Claim?

Chapman makes it clear that the court in the instant case did not have independent federal jurisdiction over the Supremacy Clause claim. However, the district court had the power to exercise pendent jurisdiction over the statutory conflict claim if it had jurisdiction over a related and substantial constitutional claim. A federal court has discretion to exercise pendent jurisdiction over a claim not otherwise cognizable in federal court as long as the court has jurisdiction over one claim and the pendent claim derives from the same "common nucleus of operative fact." United Mine Workers of America v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 725, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 1138, 16 L.Ed.2d 218 (1966); Kimbrough v. Arkansas Activities Association, 574 F.2d 423, 427 (8th Cir. 1978). Although pendent jurisdiction is often exercised when a related state claim is pended to a federal claim, in the instant case, the plaintiffs attempted to pend one federal claim (their Supremacy Clause claim or statutory claim) to another federal claim (their Due Process and Equal Protection Clause claims). The question with respect to jurisdiction is whether the plaintiffs presented the court with a substantial federal constitutional (Equal Protection or Due Process) claim such that the court had the power to exercise pendent jurisdiction over the statutory conflict (Supremacy Clause) claim.

Pretermitting any discussion of the plaintiffs' Due Process claim, which was not diligently pursued in the lower court, it is clear that the plaintiffs' initial complaint raised a substantial Equal Protection claim. Although, the argument was not fleshed out in the complaint, the plaintiffs argue on appeal that the Texas "capable of light work" standard unlawfully and irrationally discriminated between children who were needy because their fathers were totally disabled and children who were needy because their fathers were completely unable to obtain work even though only partially disabled and "capable of light work." The plaintiffs contend that the Texas "capable of light work" standard irrationally ignored the fact that children of partially incapacitated fathers are just as needy as children of totally incapacitated fathers, when the partially incapacitated fathers, although theoretically "capable of light work," are unable to obtain work because of a lack of skill and the realities of the job market. This presented a substantial constitutional question, for purposes of a federal district court's power to determine a related pendent claim not based on constitutional deprivation.

In Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 94 S.Ct. 1372, 39 L.Ed.2d 577 (1974) the Supreme Court considered almost the exact question that we face today was there a sufficiently substantial constitutional claim to support the lower court's exercise of pendent jurisdiction over a related statutory claim? Both Hagans and the instant case must be distinguished from Chapman, because in Chapman there was no constitutional claim at all. In Hagans, however, AFDC recipients in New York attacked a New York regulation (requiring recoupment of certain benefits) on two grounds: 1) that the New York regulation violated the Equal Protection Clause; and 2) that this same regulation was inconsistent with the Social Security Act and the regulations

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promulgated thereunder. The district court found the constitutional claim to be substantial and exercised pendent jurisdiction over the "statutory" claim. In order...

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