Sheyko v. Saenz

Decision Date09 October 2003
Docket NumberNo. C039132.,C039132.
Citation5 Cal.Rptr.3d 350,112 Cal.App.4th 675
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesLyudmila SHEYKO et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. Rita SAENZ, as Director, etc., et al., Defendants and Appellants.

Legal Services of Northern California, Stephen E. Goldberg and John F. Gianola, Redding; Coalition of California Welfare Rights Organizations, Grace A. Galligher, Sacramento; and Cynthia Anderson-Barker for Plaintiffs and Appellants.

Bill Lockyer, Attorney General, Charlton G. Holland, III, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Frank S. Furtek and Theodore Garelis, Deputy Attorneys General, for Defendants and Appellants.


This case involves regulations issued by the California Department of Social Services (Department) implementing the Statewide Fingerprint Imaging System (SFIS) mandated by the Legislature. (Well & Inst.Code, § 10830; further unspecified section references are to this code.) The Legislature required the Department to develop a system of electronic fingerprint imaging of welfare applicants and recipients, to try to reduce endemic fraud. The Department implemented the legislation by adopting regulations in its Manual of Policy and Procedures (hereafter, Regulations). Plaintiffs (collectively, Sheyko) sued to stop certain aspects of the system as adopted, claiming the Department's regulations exceeded statutory authority. The trial court ruled partly in Sheyko's favor and issued a writ of mandate commanding the Department to refrain from certain practices, amend regulations and notify county welfare departments about the judgment. The Department appealed, and Sheyko cross-appealed to pursue those of her claims which the trial court rejected.

The Department has refined its case for the appeal. The trial court was not provided with the same arguments provided to this court. We conclude Sheyko fails to show the Department's regulations exceed statutory authority and we will reverse with directions to enter judgment for the Department.

In particular, we conclude as follows:

(1) It is for the Legislature to determine whether a particular welfare antifraud measure is or is not effective, therefore Sheyko's assertions that SFIS is ineffective should be addressed to the Legislature, not the judiciary.

(2) Sheyko's underlying assertions that her privacy or religious freedoms are improperly impaired by SFIS lack merit.

(3) Because SFIS creates an eligibility requirement, we reject Sheyko's assertion that it impermissibly deters persons from applying for aid and therefore undermines the Department's duty to maximize aid to all eligible recipients.

(4) The trial court correctly concluded that a person who applies for aid on behalf of another person is an "applicant" as defined by departmental regulations.

(5) The trial court correctly concluded that the Department may not require no-napplicant, nonrecipient adults to be finger imaged in Food Stamp cases, but because the parties agree the Department does not require this, the judgment, to the extent it requires the Department to stop doing something it does not do, and concedes it cannot do, must be reversed.

(6) The Department may require all parents, legal guardians and caretaker relatives living in a CalWORKs household to comply with SFIS, even if some of these people are not themselves eligible for Cal-WORKs benefits in a given case.

(7) The trial court correctly concluded that the Department may require the taking of photographs, in addition to finger images, as part of the SFIS program.

(8) The trial court correctly concluded the Department may require that all members of an aid group are deemed ineligible when any member who must comply with SFIS does not comply.

(9) There is no material distinction between a person's "refusal" or "failure" to comply with SFIS: Because of the ease of compliance and the many chances to comply before aid is cut off, persons will not be cut off by innocently missing a couple of SFIS appointments, and when a person persistently fails to comply, he or she may be deemed to have refused to comply. Further, because SFIS compliance is an eligibility requirement, a person who has not complied is not yet eligible for aid.

(10) The SFIS regulations do not have an impermissible retroactive effect on persons who were applicants before SFIS was enacted but who are not themselves recipients of aid.

I. Introduction.

Counties must "relieve" the needy, if necessary by general relief. (§ 17000); Hunt v. Superior Court (1999) 21 Cal.4th 984, 991, 90 Cal.Rptr .2d 236, 987 P.2d 705; Mooney v. Pickett (1971) 4 Cal.3d 669, 676, 94 Cal.Rptr. 279, 483 P.2d 1231; see Arenas v. San Diego County Bd. of Supervisors (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 210, 215-217, 112 Cal.Rptr.2d 845 (Arenas). Two federal-state programs provide other relief through counties: (1) the Food Stamp Act (FSA) and (2) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), or CalWORKs (California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids, formerly Aid to Families with Dependent Children [AFDC]). The Department administers these programs. (§ 10600; Fry v. Saenz (2002) 98 Cal. App.4th 256, 259-260, 120 Cal.Rptr.2d 30 [CalWORKs] (Fry); Aktar v. Anderson (1997) 58 Cal.App.4th 1166, 1174, 68 Cal. Rptr.2d 595 [FSA] (Aktar).)

A. Food Stamps.

"The Food Stamp Program was created by the Food Stamp Act of 1964, 7 U.S.C. § 2011 et seq. The purpose ... was to maintain adequate levels of nutrition and to strengthen the nation's agricultural economy. [Citations.] The Program is jointly administered by the federal and state governments." (Aiken v. Obledo (E.D.Cal.1977) 442 F.Supp. 628, 633; see Annot., Food Stamp Eligibility (1994) 118 A.L.R.Fed. 473, 485, § 2.) The FSA speaks of "participation by households" (7 U.S.C. § 2014(b)) and eligibility "is determined on a household, rather than an individual, basis." (Annot., Food Stamp Eligibility, supra, 118 A.L.R.Fed. at p. 485, § 2, fns. omitted; see Lyng v. Castillo (1986) 477 U.S. 635, 636, 106 S.Ct. 2727, 2728, 91 L.Ed.2d 527, 531.)

California maximizes its participation in the program by statute: "The eligibility of households shall be determined to the extent permitted by federal law." (§ 18901; see Aiken v. Obledo, supra, 442 F.Supp. at p. 636.) A federal statute partly defines "Household" to mean "(A) an individual who lives alone or who, while living with others, customarily purchases food and prepares meals ... separate and apart from the others, or (B) a group of individuals who live together and customarily purchase food and prepare meals together...." (7 U.S.C. § 2012(i); see 7 C.F.R. § 273.1; Regs., § 63-402.) The FSA uses the "household" definition to reduce fraudulent claims, e.g., claims by multiple members of one "household." (Steinberg v. U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (E.D.N.Y.1984) 613 F.Supp. 432, 433-435.)

B. CalWORKs.

"CalWORKs provides aid and services to families with related children under 18 whose parent or parents cannot support them due to death, incapacity, incarceration, unemployment, or continued absence from the home." (Fry, supra, 98 Cal. App.4th at p. 260, 120 Cal.Rptr.2d 30; see Arenas, supra, 93 Cal.App.4th at p. 213, 112 Cal.Rptr.2d 845 [discussing federal Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996, known as the Welfare Reform Act].)

As we recently observed, CalWORKs reflects the legislative judgment that "`the family unit is of fundamental importance to society in nurturing its members, passing on values, averting potential social problems, and providing the secure structure in which citizens live out their lives. Each family unit has the right and responsibility to provide its own economic security by full participation in the work force to the extent possible....' (§ 11205.) With these aims in mind, `[e]very county ... shall administer [CalWORKs] in such a manner as to achieve the greatest possible reduction of dependency and to promote the rehabilitation of recipients.'" (Fry, supra, at pp. 265-266, 120 Cal.Rptr.2d 30; see Vaessen v. Woods (1984) 35 Cal.3d 749, 755, 200 Cal.Rptr. 893, 677 P.2d 1183.) TANF contains a similar statement of purpose. (Fry, supra, 98 Cal.App.4th at p. 266, fn. 5, 120 Cal.Rptr.2d 30; see Dozier v. Williams Co. Soc. Serv. Bd. (N.D.1999) 603 N.W.2d 493, 495.)

In like manner as FSA is granted to "households," CalWORKs aid is "granted ... to families with related children under the age of 18 years" as specified and with exceptions not here relevant. (§ 11250, italics added; see County of San Diego v. Lamb (1998) 63 Cal.App.4th 845, 848-849, 73 Cal.Rptr.2d 912 (Lamb); § 11450 ["Aid shall be paid for each needy family...."].) The federal purpose "is to increase the flexibility of States in operating a program designed to—(1) provide assistance to needy families so that children may be cared for in their own homes or in the homes of relatives; (2) end the dependence of needy parents on government benefits ...; (3) prevent and reduce [out-of wedlock pregnancies]; (4) encourage the formation and maintenance of two-parent families." (42 U.S.C. § 601; see Mitchell v. Swoap (1973) 35 Cal.App.3d 879, 884, 113 Cal.Rptr. 75 [construing prior analogous statutory language; "`The very title of the program, the repeated [references to families ... and the words of the preamble ... show that Congress wished to help children through the family structure .... From its inception the Act has defined "dependent child" in part by reference to the relatives with whom the child lives,'" (quoting Dandridge v. Williams (1970) 397 U.S. 471, 479, 90 S.Ct. 1153, 1158, 25 L.Ed.2d 491, 498.) In some sense it may be said that "[t]he reference point of the statute is the deprived child" (Hypolite v. Carleson (1973) 32 Cal.App.3d 979, 983-984, 108 Cal.Rptr. 751; see Lamb, supra, 63 Cal.App.4th at p. 849, 73 Cal.Rptr.2d 912) inasmuch as families without eligible children are not eligible. (Cf. Fry, supra, 98 Cal.App.4th at pp. 263-264 120 Cal.Rptr.2d...

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