Green v. Gober et al
ORDER granting 85 Motion for Summary Judgment; granting 89 Motion for Summary Judgment; denying 123 and 124 Motion in Limine as moot. Signed by Judge D. P. Marshall Jr. on 1/29/2015. (jak)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
EASTERN DISTRICT OF ARKANSAS
PINE BLUFF DIVISION
PAUL D. SELBY, Attorney, Monticello Regional OCSE;
PARKER HOUSER, Claims Representative,
Social Security; and TALIA LAMBERT, Investigator,
Monticello Office of Child Support Enforcement
After James Green started getting disability benefits from the Social
Security Administration, they got garnished for child support. Here Green
asserts constitutional claims against various people involved- a lawyer and
an investigator with the Arkansas Office of Child Support Enforcement in
Monticello and a claims representative with the Social Security
Administration. Green has sued the defendants individually and in their
official capacities for damages and injunctive relief. Sovereign immunity bars
his official-capacity damages claims. Murphy v. State ofArkansas, 127 F.3d 750,
754 (8th Cir. 1997) (state officials); Buford v. Runyon, 160 F.3d 1199, 1203 (8th
Cir. 1998) (federal officials). The Court has considered the undisputed
material facts and, where there is some dispute, viewed the record in Green's
favor. Taylor v. White, 321 F.3d 710, 715 (8th Cir. 2003).
1. Facts. In September 2009, the Social Security Administration found
that Green was disabled and eligible for both disability and supplementalincome benefits. NQ 102 at 20-30. The Administration then had to calculate the
amount of those benefits. In his application, Green said that he lived with his
parents; and he didn't help with household payments or buy his own food.
NQ 102 at 83. Based on this information, the Administration determined that
the amount Green would receive in disability benefits rendered him ineligible
for needs-based supplemental-income benefits. NQ 86-10 at 4. Green therefore
drew only disability benefits. NQ 89-1at57-58 (deposition pagination).
Green had two minor children to whom he owed child support. Paul
Selby of the Office of Child Support Enforcement in Monticello, Arkansas,
learned that Green had been approved for disability benefits. Selby moved to
modify Green's child-support obligations. A hearing on the motion was set
for February 2010. Green says he never got the notice or copy of the motion.
The affidavit of service shows that Green's mother, Queenetta, signed for the
papers at her house, where Green lived. NQ 102 at 50. Green concedes that
service could have been made at his house, but says that he never actually
received the papers. NQ 89-1 at 20 (deposition pagination). When the
modification hearing was held in February, Green was in jail. It was Selby's
fault, Green says, that he didn't attend the hearing.
After the hearing, the Circuit Court of Bradley County, Arkansas, issued
an order finding that service was proper and modifying Green's child-support
obligations to account for his disability benefits. NQ 86-6. Talia Lambert, also
with the Office of Child Support Enforcement, then prepared garnishment
forms; she did so incorrectly, according to Green. The Social Security
Administration received the order and began garnishing a portion of Green's
disability benefits. Green says the Administration took too much. He blames
Parker Houser, his Social Security claims representative, for withholding too
much from the benefits.
2. Selby and Lambert. The Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction to
revisit the notice issue. Were this Court to conclude that Selby and Lambert
failed to notify Green about the child-support-modification hearing, this
Court would essentially be reversing the state court's ruling that service was
proper. Green, a state-court loser, cannot bring his appeal to this
Court. Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Industries Corp., 544 U.S. 280, 293-94
(2005); Skit International, Ltd. v. DAC Technologies of Arkansas, Inc., 487 F.3d
1154, 1157-58 (8th Cir. 2007).
Green's argument that Lambert incorrectly filled out the garnishment
form in June 2009 comes too late. Green sued in October 2012. More than
three years had passed since Lambert filled out that form. Any§ 1983 claim
based on that conduct is thus time barred. ARK. CODE ANN.§ 16-56-105; Baker
v. Chisom, 501 F.3d 920, 922 (8th Cir. 2007).
3. Houser. The Social Security claims representative, Houser, is immune
from civil liability for complying with a facially valid court order. 42 U.S.C.
§ 659(£)(1). And even absent this statutory immunity, Green hasn't shown that
Houser violated Green's rights. He was entitled to monthly disability benefits
of $761.50. Green agrees that $239.20-31.5%-of that amount was withheld
monthly for child support. NQ 89-1 at 57 (deposition pagination). By law, at
least 50% of Green's disability benefits could be taken to satisfy his childsupport obligations. 15 U.S.C. § 1673(b)(2). Houser therefore withheld from
Green less than, not more than, the law allowed. Nor is this a case where
supplemental-income benefits were being taken to satisfy a child supportobligation. E.g., Davis v. Office of Child Support Enforcement, 341 Ark. 349,
Green argues further that the Administration erred in finding him
ineligible for supplemental-income benefits. Remember that when he applied
for those benefits, Green said that he lived with his parents and didn't pay for
household expenses or food. Green now says he did. His parents echo him:
they now say that Green helped with those expenses too. NQ 102 at 38-39. This
evidence, which the Court views in Green's favor, might have altered the
calculation of Green's supplemental-income benefits. But neither Green nor
his attorney at the time appealed the Administration's benefits award. NQ 1192 at 2. The Court therefore cannot review that decision. Anderson v. Sullivan,
959 F.2d 690, 692-93 (8th Cir. 1992).
* * *
Houser' s motion for summary judgment, NQ 85, granted. Selby and
Lambert's motion for summary judgment, NQ 89, granted. Motions in limine,
NQ 123 & 124, denied as moot. Judgment will issue in due course.
D .P. Matshall Jr.
United States District Judge
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