Hunt v. Edmunds

Decision Date07 April 1971
Docket NumberNo. 5-70 Civ. 36.,5-70 Civ. 36.
Citation328 F. Supp. 468
PartiesPhyllis L. HUNT et al., Plaintiffs, v. James EDMUNDS, Individually and as Director of the Ramsey County Welfare Department, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — District of Minnesota

Legal Aid Society of Minneapolis, by Luther A. Granquist, Minneapolis, Minn., Legal Services Project, Cass Lake, by Warren E. Strom, Cass Lake, Minn., for plaintiffs.

Craig R. Anderson, Asst. Atty. Gen., St. Paul, Minn., for defendants.

Before BRIGHT, Circuit Judge, and NEVILLE and LARSON, District Judges.

NEVILLE, District Judge.

The original motion for convocation of a three-judge district court under 28 U.S.C. §§ 2281 and 22841 alleged that a certain statute2 and regulations3 of statewide application are unconstitutional in light of Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 90 S.Ct. 1011, 25 L.Ed.2d 287 (1970), insofar as they "permit suspension or withholding of public assistance payments under the categorical aid programs without notice and an opportunity to be heard."4 The Court also understood this challenge to run to the constitutionality of Policy Bulletin No. 15, a directive of the State Commissioner to County Welfare Directors dated June 10, 1970, and apparently effective on the date of the reduction of assistance benefits in this case. The final paragraph of that Bulletin read:

"It is likely that within the next two or three months the pre-termination procedure outlined in this bulletin will also be ordered by HEW to be applied to a situation in which the recipient's grant is not being terminated but is being reduced. Notwithstanding, we wish to have some experience with the procedure as it applies to terminations or suspensions only, before getting into the much broader area of reductions, where the volume of cases will be considerably greater."

The originating judge read this to be a mandatory edict to County authorities that they deny pre-reduction notice and hearing.

Policy Bulletin No. 15 was issued in the wake of Goldberg v. Kelly, supra, and Moldenhauer v. Provo, 326 F.Supp. 480 (D.Minn. 1970, 4-70 Civ. 218), a decision on motion for preliminary injunction holding Minnesota welfare statutes and regulations unconstitutional under Goldberg v. Kelly in cases of terminations only. This Bulletin, apparently an interim directive having the force and effect of law as a regulation promulgated under statutory authority delegated to the Commissioner, was filed as an exhibit to the State's Answer. Before November 21, 1970, it was the sole implementation of Goldberg existing on the date of this plaintiff's reduction of grants in aid.

On December 17, 1970, (subsequent to the appointment of the three-judge court) plaintiffs filed a brief in support of their positions, accompanied by a copy of certain sections5 of the Public Welfare Manual, revised as of September 21, 1970. These regulations appear to be designed to supersede the aforementioned Policy Bulletin No. 15. While the new regulations require the procedural safeguards enunciated in Goldberg for terminations and suspensions, they do not apply to reductions. Furthermore, they do not include a provision similar to that of Policy Bulletin No. 15 which mandatorily prohibited County Boards from extending Goldberg rights to recipients subject to reductions.

In short, Minnesota state law in its present form does not expressly deny recipients such rights in assistance payments reduction cases. Nothing in the current Public Welfare Manual affirmatively prohibits a County Board from affording a recipient notice and an opportunity to be heard prior to the reduction of his grant. The court notes, further, that HEW has promulgated regulations, effective April 14, 1971, which will require that states implement procedures similar to those imposed by Goldberg in reduction cases as well. 36 F.R. 3034-3035 (February 13, 1971), 45 C.F. R. § 205.10.

In this posture, the court is required to reconsider its action in requesting the convocation of a three-judge court. The judges are of the opinion that the case is now inappropriate for decision by a three-judge court and should be disposed of by the original single-judge court.6

28 U.S.C. § 2281 reads as follows:

"An interlocutory or permanent injunction restraining the enforcement, operation or execution of any State statute by restraining the action of any officer of such State in the enforcement or execution of such statute or of an order made by an administrative board or commission acting under State statutes, shall not be granted by any district court or judge thereof upon the ground of the unconstitutionality of such statute unless the application therefor is heard and determined by a district court of three judges under section 2284 of this title."

The present thrust of plaintiff's complaint is that Cass County Minnesota officials denied her certain constitutional rights by refusing to afford her notice and hearing prior to the reduction of her grant. The denial of such procedures is not now required by applicable statutes and regulations as embodied in the aforesaid Manual. Those laws would clearly permit County authorities to extend to the plaintiff the privileges she seeks.

As the First Circuit has said, in Benoit v. Gardner, 351 F.2d 846 (1st Cir. 1965), at 848, § 2281 "does not encompass injunctions sought on the ground that a valid statute or order is being executed in a manner prejudicial to constitutional rights." A three-judge court is not required (nor, in fact, permitted) in situations where vindication of alleged constitutional rights of which plaintiff claims there has been a violation can be effected without invalidating the statute itself. Ex Parte Bransford, 310 U.S. 354, 60 S.Ct. 947, 84 L.Ed. 1249 (1940); Phillips v. United States, 312 U.S. 246, 61 S.Ct. 480, 85 L.Ed. 800 (1941); American Federation of Labor v. Watson, 327 U.S. 582, 66 S.Ct. 761, 90 L.Ed. 873 (1946); Griffin v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, 377 U.S. 218, 84 S.Ct. 1226, 12 L.Ed.2d 256 (1964); Moody v. Flowers, 387 U.S. 97, 87 S.Ct. 1544, 18 L.Ed.2d 643 (1967); Bussie v. Long, 383 F.2d 766 (5th Cir. 1967); Wright, Federal Courts (2nd Ed., 1970), Chapter 8, § 50, page 190.

Griffin, supra, is particularly analogous to the instant case in this respect. Subsequent to the Brown school desegregation decision, the Virginia General Assembly had passed legislation permitting but not requiring county authorities to order the closing of public schools and to channel state education funds instead to private (segregated) schools. When Prince Edward County took such action a suit was brought seeking a declaration that its action was unconstitutional under Brown. When the case reached the Supreme Court, it was held inter alia that the challenge of action taken by the County on the basis of a state statute which merely permitted it did not merit the convocation of a three-judge court:

"While a holding as to the constitutional duty of the Supervisors and other officials of Prince Edward County may have repercussion over the State and may require the District Court's orders to run to parties outside the county, it is nevertheless true that what is attacked in this suit is not something which the State has commanded Prince Edward to do—close its public schools and give grants to children in private schools—but rather something that the county with state acquiescence and cooperation has undertaken to do on its own volition, a decision not binding on any other county in Virginia. Even though actions of the State are involved, the case, as it comes to us, concerns not a state-wide system but rather a situation unique to Prince Edward County. We hold that the single district judge did not err in adjudicating the present controversy." 377 U.S. at 228, 84 S. Ct. at 1231.

Goldberg v. Kelly, supra, did not specifically address itself to the above question.

Several recent cases in the welfare field illustrate, however, situations in which the three-judge court is clearly required. In King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309, 88 S.Ct. 821, 19 L.Ed.2d 869 (1968), the plaintiffs attacked Alabama state welfare regulations which required that local authorities deny AFDC benefits to any otherwise eligible applicant if they determined that the applicant was living with a "substitute father". A three-judge court was convoked to consider this challenge because the alleged infringement of constitutional right was mandated by the regulations, and was not merely the result of an exercise of discretion by some official acting under a facially valid regulation. Likewise, in Shapiro v. Thompson, 394 U.S. 618, 89 S.Ct. 1322, 22 L.Ed.2d 600 (1969), a three-judge court was required in an action brought to invalidate a state statute which required welfare authorities to deny categorical assistance benefits to a certain class of recipients. See also Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471, 90 S.Ct. 1153, 25 L.Ed.2d 491 (1970); Lewis v. Martin, 397 U.S. 552, 90 S.Ct. 1282, 25 L.Ed.2d 561 (1970).

In the instant case, plaintiffs do not contend that to meet Goldberg, state statutes and regulations must be rewritten expressly to require local welfare authorities to give notice and hearing before reducing a recipient's grant. Those laws already permit such procedures, and thus cannot be called facially unconstitutional on that account. Rather, the plaintiffs are concerned with the practice of denying such procedural safeguards, a practice which is permitted but not required by the statutes and regulations they purport to challenge. The case does not require a three-judge court. Crow v. California Dept. of Human Resources, 325 F.Supp. 1314 (N.D.Cal. 1970); Merriweather v. Burson, 325 F. Supp. 709 (N.D.Ga.1970); Torres v. New York State Dept. of Labor, 318 F. Supp. 1313, 1318-1324 (S.D.N.Y.1970); McQueen v. Druker, 317 F.Supp. 1122 (D.Mass.1970); Java v. California Dept. of Human Resources Development, 317 F.Supp. 875 (N....

To continue reading

Request your trial
12 cases
  • Silvey v. Roberts
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Florida
    • 8 Agosto 1973
    ...(5th Cir. 1967); Benoit v. Gardner, 351 F.2d 846 (1st Cir. 1965); Serritella v. Engelman, 339 F.Supp. 738 (D.N.J.1972); Hunt v. Edmunds, 328 F.Supp. 468 (D.Minn.1971). III. CONFLICT WITH THE SOCIAL SECURITY ACT AND THE REGULATIONS PROMULGATED The "fair hearings" requirement of the Social Se......
  • Frost v. Weinberger
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Eastern District of New York
    • 3 Mayo 1974
    ...nonetheless." Elliott v. Weinberger, supra, 371 F. Supp. at 970. See Hagans v. Wyman, 462 F.2d 928 (2d Cir. 1972); Hunt v. Edmunds, 328 F. Supp. 468, 475 (D.Minn.1971). In reaching this conclusion, this court is not unmindful of the decision in Torres v. New York State Dep't of Labor, 321 F......
  • Owens v. Roberts
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — Middle District of Florida
    • 17 Julio 1974
    ...556 (1972); Merriweather v. Burson, 439 F.2d 1092 (5th Cir. 1971); Lage v. Downing, 314 F. Supp. 903 (S.D.Iowa 1970); Hunt v. Edmunds, 328 F.Supp. 468 (D.Minn. 1971); Caldwell v. Laupheimer, 311 F. Supp. 853 (E.D.Pa.1969); Barnett v. Lindsay, 319 F.Supp. 610 (D.Utah 1970); Cf. Board of Rege......
  • Geneva Towers Tenants Organization v. Federated Mortgage Investors
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • 2 Octubre 1974
    ...person. See Burr v. New Rochelle Municipal housing Authority, 479 F.2d at 1168 (increase of rent in public housing); Hunt v. Edmunds, 328 F.Supp. 468 (D.Minn. 1971) (reduction of welfare benefits); Woodson v. Houston, 27 Mich.App. 239, 183 N.W.2d 465 (1970) (same); but see Hahn v. Gottlieb,......
  • 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