Gonzalez v. Young, No. 76-2410

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore ALDISERT, ROSENN and HUNTER; ALDISERT
Citation560 F.2d 160
Decision Date15 July 1977
Docket NumberNo. 76-2410
PartiesJulia GONZALEZ, Individually and as guardian ad litem for Luis Gonzalez, age 9, and Manuel Gonzalez, age 10, and further on behalf of all persons similarly situated, Appellant, v. James F. YOUNG, Director, Hudson County Welfare Board and G. Thomas Ritti, Director, New Jersey Division of Public Welfare.

Page 160

560 F.2d 160
Julia GONZALEZ, Individually and as guardian ad litem for
Luis Gonzalez, age 9, and Manuel Gonzalez, age 10,
and further on behalf of all persons
similarly situated, Appellant,
v.
James F. YOUNG, Director, Hudson County Welfare Board and G.
Thomas Ritti, Director, New Jersey Division of
Public Welfare.
No. 76-2410.
United States Court of Appeals,
Third Circuit.
Argued June 7, 1977.
Decided July 15, 1977.

Page 162

Timothy K. Madden, Director, Jersey City, N.J., for appellant; Theodore A. Gardner, Hudson County Legal Services Corp., Jersey City, N.J., on the brief and of counsel.

Harold J. Ruvoldt, Jr., Hudson County Counsel, Jersey City, N.J., for Hudson County Welfare Board Director and Hudson County Welfare Bd.; William D. Surdovel, Asst. County Counsel, Jersey City, N.J., on the brief and of counsel.

William F. Hyland, Atty. Gen. of New Jersey, Trenton, N.J., for appellee G. Thomas Ritti, Director, New Jersey Division of Public Welfare; Stephen Skillman, Asst. Atty. Gen., Trenton, N.J., of counsel, Richard M. Hluchan, Deputy Atty. Gen., on the brief.

Before ALDISERT, ROSENN and HUNTER, Circuit Judges.

OPINION OF THE COURT

ALDISERT, Circuit Judge.

This appeal requires us to resolve a question which was left open by the Supreme Court in Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 94 S.Ct. 1372, 39 L.Ed.2d 577 (1974), and which has divided the circuits. We are to decide whether the district court had jurisdiction in a claim for damages totalling less than $10,000 and alleging that a state regulation conflicts with a federal statute and therefore must fall because of the Supremacy Clause.

The question is presented in an appeal by Julia Gonzalez from summary judgment in favor of appellees James F. Young, Director

Page 163

of the Hudson County, New Jersey Welfare Board, and G. Thomas Ritti, Director of the New Jersey Division of Public Welfare. The district court, presented with a challenge to New Jersey welfare regulations which allegedly deprived Gonzalez of benefits ensured by a federal statute, determined that no conflict existed between the challenged state regulations and the applicable provisions of the federal statute and accompanying regulations. Because we determine that the district court did not have jurisdiction over this case in the posture in which it was presented, we vacate the district court's order and remand for dismissal of the complaint for want of jurisdiction.

I.

Appellant resides with her two children in Jersey City, New Jersey. Each month, she receives $235.00 under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (AFDC), 42 U.S.C. § 601 et seq., as well as $157.00 under the Social Security Administration's disability program for her one retarded son. On February 2, 1976, Gonzalez received and cashed both checks at a neighborhood food market. Upon leaving the store, she was accosted by a robber who stole the cash. The following day she explained her situation to the Hudson County Welfare Board, requesting $163.00 in emergency assistance funds to cover her rent and utility bills.

States which elect voluntarily to participate in the federal government's AFDC program dispense the federal monies ("matching funds") obtained under the program according to federal eligibility criteria. Minimum standards for emergency assistance eligibility are set out in 42 U.S.C. § 606(e)(1) and its accompanying regulation, 45 C.F.R. 233.120. The statute provides that emergency assistance to needy families with children embraces cases "where (an eligible) child is without available resources, the payments, care, or services involved are necessary to avoid destitution of such child or to provide living arrangements in a home for such child, and such destitution or need for living arrangements did not arise because such child or relative refused without good cause to accept employment or training for employment . . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 606(e)(1).

45 C.F.R. 233.120(a)(1) provides that in order to receive funding, a participating state must specify in a "state plan" the eligibility conditions to be imposed for receipt of emergency assistance. After electing to participate in the AFDC program, New Jersey promulgated the following provision in regard to emergency assistance payments:

When because of an emergent situation over which they have had no control or opportunity to plan in advance, the eligible unit is in a state of homelessness; and the County Welfare Board determines that the providing of shelter and/or food and/or emergency clothing, and/or minimum essential house furnishings are necessary for health and safety, such needs may be recognized in accordance with the regulations and limitations in the following sections.

N.J.A.C. 10:82-5.12. Pursuant to this state regulation, on March 15, 1976, the Hudson County Welfare Board formally denied Gonzalez' request for emergency assistance stating that no assistance would be granted because Gonzalez was not in an "imminent or actual state of homelessness."

In her complaint to the district court, Gonzalez alleged that appellee Young violated 42 U.S.C. § 606(e)(1) and 45 C.F.R. 233.120 by refusing to authorize emergency assistance in the amount of $163.00 "even though Julia Gonzalez is clearly entitled to same under Federal Law . . . ." She further alleged that appellee Ritti was responsible for "refusing to promulgate meaningful administrative procedures" for the emergency assistance program, a claim which was mooted by subsequently promulgated state regulations. Although not articulated, the gravamen of the complaint, and what is pressed on appeal, is that the New Jersey standard violates federal law because it is more restrictive than the standards mandated by federal statute.

II.

Gonzalez predicated jurisdiction in the district court upon 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and

Page 164

28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343. Section 1983 provides for a federal cause of action to redress the deprivation, under color of state law, "of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws . . . ." We hold that it is not a jurisdictional statute; it only fashions a remedy. Thus, although Gonzalez may have asserted a claim under section 1983, she had to look to other authority to obtain jurisdiction.

At the onset, 28 U.S.C. § 1331 was properly rejected by the district court because the amount in controversy did not exceed $10,000.00. Gonzalez sought only $163.00 in damages, along with declaratory and injunctive relief. Thus, it appears "to a legal certainty that the claim is really for less than the jurisdictional amount." St. Paul Mercury Indemnity Co. v. Red Cab Co.,303 U.S. 283, 289, 58 S.Ct. 586, 590, 82 L.Ed. 845 (1938). See Nelson v. Keefer, 451 F.2d 289 (3d Cir. 1971).

The use of 28 U.S.C. § 1343 as a jurisdictional wellspring for her section 1983 claim, however, is not as clear. Whether it can be used as such is a question of lively and current proportion, on which the circuits are split. The statute provides, in relevant part:

The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action authorized by law to be commenced by any person:

(3) 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;

(4) To recover damages or to secure equitable or other relief under any Act of Congress providing for the protection of civil rights, including the right to vote.

28 U.S.C. § 1343(3), (4) (emphasis added).

A.

Any inquiry into the scope of section 1343 must make immediate reference to the Supreme Court case of Hagans v. Lavine, supra. In Hagans, the Court decided that when a constitutional claim is made under section 1983 which is of sufficient substance to support federal jurisdiction, a district court has the power under section 1343(3) to consider other claims based on section 1983 without determining that the latter claims, standing alone, are sufficient to support jurisdiction. The current inter-circuit disagreement is largely over whether a claim that a state law conflicts with federal law is of "sufficient substance" to confer jurisdiction, and when, absent a clearly sufficient constitutional claim, there exists an independent basis for jurisdiction under section 1983. Indeed, the questions have been specifically left open by the Supreme Court on a number of occasions. In King v. Smith,392 U.S. 309, 88 S.Ct. 2128, 20 L.Ed.2d 1118 (1968), the Court stated: "We intimate no views as to whether and under what circumstances suits challenging AFDC provisions only on the ground that they are inconsistent with the federal statute may be brought in federal courts." Id. at 312 n. 3, 88 S.Ct. at 2131. And in Hagans, supra, the Court stated:

In view of our disposition of this case, we do not reach the question whether, wholly aside from the pendent-jurisdiction rationale relied upon by the District Court, other valid grounds existed for sustaining its jurisdiction to entertain and decide the claim of conflict between federal and state law. It has been suggested, for example, that the conflict question is itself a constitutional matter within the meaning of § 1343(3). Connecticut Union of Welfare Employees v. White, 55 F.R.D. 481, 486 (Conn.1972). For purposes of interpreting and applying 28 U.S.C. § 2281, the three-judge-court provision, a claim of conflict between federal and state law has been denominated a claim not requiring a three-judge court. Swift & Co. v. Wickham, 382 U.S. 111, (86 S.Ct. 258, 15 L.Ed.2d 194) (1965). But Swift itself recognized that a suit to have a state statute

Page 165

declared void and to secure the benefits of the federal statute with which the state law is allegedly in conflict cannot succeed without ultimate resort to the Federal...

To continue reading

Request your trial
17 practice notes
  • LAKE LANSING SP. A. PROT. ASS'N v. INGHAM CTY., ETC., No. G-78-648.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • April 16, 1980
    ...Gonzales may have asserted a claim under Section 1983, she had to look to other authority to obtain jurisdiction. Gonzales v. Young, 560 F.2d 160 at 164 (CA 3 The Supreme Court affirmed Gonzales, supra, in Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Organization, 441 U.S. 600, 99 S.Ct. 1905, 60 L.Ed.......
  • Lewis v. Alexander, No. 11–3439.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • June 20, 2012
    ...a federal question which the federal courts have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 to resolve.”).18 Our opinion in Gonzalez v. Young, 560 F.2d 160, 166 (3d Cir.1977), is not to the contrary. There we concluded that 28 U.S.C. § 1343 did not confer jurisdiction over a claim that the federal......
  • Alexander v. Polk, Civ. A. No. 78-2594.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • October 31, 1978
    ...Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 533-35 n. 5, 94 S.Ct. 1372, 1377, 1378, 39 L. Ed.2d 577 (1974). Recently addressing that issue in Gonzalez v. Young, 560 F.2d 160 (3d Cir. 1977), cert. granted, 434 U.S. 1061, 98 S.Ct. 1232, 55 L.Ed.2d 761 (1978), a case dealing with a conflict between state and federa......
  • Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Organization Gonzalez v. Young, Nos. 77-719
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 14, 1979
    ...securing either 'equal rights' or 'civil rights,' these terms have a more restrictive meaning as used in § 1343. Pp. 620-623. No. 77-5324, 560 F.2d 160, affirmed; No. 77-719, 555 F.2d 1219, reversed and remanded. David H. Young, Asst. Atty. Gen. of Tex., Austin, Tex., argued, for petitioner......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
17 cases
  • LAKE LANSING SP. A. PROT. ASS'N v. INGHAM CTY., ETC., No. G-78-648.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 6th Circuit. United States District Court (Western District Michigan)
    • April 16, 1980
    ...Gonzales may have asserted a claim under Section 1983, she had to look to other authority to obtain jurisdiction. Gonzales v. Young, 560 F.2d 160 at 164 (CA 3 The Supreme Court affirmed Gonzales, supra, in Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Organization, 441 U.S. 600, 99 S.Ct. 1905, 60 L.Ed.......
  • Lewis v. Alexander, No. 11–3439.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • June 20, 2012
    ...a federal question which the federal courts have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331 to resolve.”).18 Our opinion in Gonzalez v. Young, 560 F.2d 160, 166 (3d Cir.1977), is not to the contrary. There we concluded that 28 U.S.C. § 1343 did not confer jurisdiction over a claim that the federal......
  • Alexander v. Polk, Civ. A. No. 78-2594.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 3th Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of Pennsylvania)
    • October 31, 1978
    ...Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 533-35 n. 5, 94 S.Ct. 1372, 1377, 1378, 39 L. Ed.2d 577 (1974). Recently addressing that issue in Gonzalez v. Young, 560 F.2d 160 (3d Cir. 1977), cert. granted, 434 U.S. 1061, 98 S.Ct. 1232, 55 L.Ed.2d 761 (1978), a case dealing with a conflict between state and federa......
  • Chapman v. Houston Welfare Rights Organization Gonzalez v. Young, Nos. 77-719
    • United States
    • United States Supreme Court
    • May 14, 1979
    ...securing either 'equal rights' or 'civil rights,' these terms have a more restrictive meaning as used in § 1343. Pp. 620-623. No. 77-5324, 560 F.2d 160, affirmed; No. 77-719, 555 F.2d 1219, reversed and remanded. David H. Young, Asst. Atty. Gen. of Tex., Austin, Tex., argued, for petitioner......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT