Patterson v. Labor Administrator et al
RULING granting 97 Motion for Summary Judgment; terminating as moot 108 Motion to Expedite. Signed by Judge Janet C. Hall on 3/17/2014. (Malone, P.)
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
DISTRICT OF CONNECTICUT
STATE OF CONNECTICUT
DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
ADMINISTRATOR, ET AL.,
CIVIL ACTION NO.
MARCH 17, 2014
RULING RE: DEFENDANTS’ MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT (Doc. No. 97)
Plaintiff Ronald Patterson originally brought this action pro se against the State of
Connecticut Department of Labor Administrator (“Administrator”), the State of
Connecticut Employment Security Appeals Division, Lynne M. Knox in her individual
capacity and in her capacity as Chairwoman of the State of Connecticut Employment
Security Board of Review (“Board of Review”), Janice T. Drombrowski in her individual
capacity and in her capacity as an Associate Appeals Referee of the State of
Connecticut Employment Security Appeals Division, and the State of Connecticut
Judicial Branch (together “Defendants”). Patterson alleges violations of his procedural
due process and equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United
States Constitution, violation of his right to be free from retaliation for the exercise of his
First Amendment rights, and to assert the unconstitutionality of a provision of
The court previously granted Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss (“MTD”) (Doc. No.
15) with respect to all claims except “Mr. Patterson’s federal constitutional procedural
due process claim for prospective, injunctive relief as to the Administrator.” MTD at 23.
Currently pending before the court is Defendant Administrator’s Motion for Summary
Judgment (“MSJ”) (Doc. No. 97) on the ground that the “Administrator did not violate
plaintiff’s procedural due process rights by the notice of redetermination of plaintiff’s
benefit rate to emergency benefits under federal law.” MSJ at 1.
For the following reasons, the court grants the Administrator’s Motion for
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A motion for summary judgment may be granted only where there are no issues
of material fact in dispute and the moving party is therefore entitled to judgment as a
matter of law. See Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(a); In re Dana Corp., 574 F.3d 129, 151 (2d Cir.
2009). The moving party may satisfy his burden “by showing—that is pointing out to the
district court—that there is an absence of evidence to support the nonmoving party’s
case.” PepsiCo, Inc. v. Coca-Cola Co., 315 F.3d 101, 105 (2d Cir. 2002) (per curiam)
(internal quotation citations and marks omitted). Once the moving party meets this
burden, the nonmoving party must set forth specific facts showing that there is a
genuine issue for trial. Wright v. Goord, 554 F.3d 255, 266 (2d Cir. 2009). In order to
defeat the motion for summary judgment, he must present such evidence as would
allow a jury to find in his favor. Graham v. Long Island R.R., 230 F.3d 34, 38 (2d Cir.
2000). Merely verifying the conclusory allegations of the complaint in an affidavit,
however, is insufficient to oppose a motion for summary judgment. Zigmund v. Foster,
106 F. Supp. 2d 352, 356 (D. Conn. 2000) (citing cases).
When reviewing the record, the court resolves all ambiguities and draws all
permissible factual inferences in favor of the party against whom summary judgment is
sought. Loeffler v. Staten Island Univ. Hosp., 582 F.3d 268, 274 (2d Cir. 2009). If there
is any evidence in the record on a material issue from which a reasonable inference
could be drawn in favor of the nonmoving party, summary judgment is inappropriate.
Security Ins. Co. of Hartford v. Old Dominion Freight Line Inc., 391 F.3d 77, 83 (2d Cir.
2004). However, the existence of a mere “scintilla” of evidence supporting the plaintiff’s
position is insufficient to defeat a motion for summary judgment. Harvey v. Homebound
Mortgage, Inc., 547 F.3d 158, 163 (2d Cir. 2008).
PROCEDURAL HISTORY AND STATEMENT OF FACTS
Mr. Patterson received unemployment compensation benefits, effective July 6,
2008, at a weekly benefit rate of $483.1 Defendants’ Local Rule 56(a)(1) Statement
(“Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt.”) at ¶ 1; Plaintiff’s Local Rule 56 (a)(2) (“Pl.’s L.R. 56(a)(2)
Stmt.”) at ¶ 1. Pursuant to Connecticut law, he received 26 weeks of benefits, after
which he began receiving benefits under the federal emergency unemployment
compensation (“EUC”) program, as provided by the federal Supplemental
Appropriations Act. Id. The federal Supplemental Appropriations Act 2008, Title IV,
P.L. 110-252, § 4001(b), provides emergency unemployment compensation to any
individual who has exhausted all rights to regular unemployment compensation under
state or federal law in a given benefit year. P.L. 110-252, § 4001(b). The Act defines
exhaustion of benefits as occurring when “(1) no payments of regular compensation can
be made . . . because such individual has received all regular compensation available to
such individual based on employment or wages during such individual’s base period; or
According to Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 31-231a, the benefit rate is equal to one twentysixth of the average of total wages paid during the two quarters of the current benefit year's
base period in which wages were highest. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 31-231a.
(2) such individual’s rights to such compensation have been terminated by reason of the
expiration of the benefit year with respect to which such rights existed.” P.L. 110-252, §
4001(c).2 Mr. Patterson was paid a total of 94 weeks on his claim through the weekend
of April 17, 2010. Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 1; Pl.’s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at ¶ 1.
On February 21, 2010, the Administrator mailed Mr. Patterson a monetary
determination extending his July 6, 2008 EUC claim at his then-current weekly benefit
rate. Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 2; Pl.’s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at ¶ 2. The
determination referred to a benefit year from July 6, 2008 through September 27, 2008,
and a base period from April 1, 2006 to March 31, 2007, with quarterly wages within that
base period used to determine the benefit rate. Id. The notice showed a continuation of
the $483 weekly benefit rate for another 53 weeks, with a maximum benefit of $25,599.
Subsequently, the Administrator mailed Mr. Patterson two additional monetary
determinations on March 15 and March 16, 2010. Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶¶ 3-4;
Pl.’s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at ¶ 4. The Administrator concedes that the former
determination was sent in error. Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 3. The latter
determination established a new benefit year for regular Connecticut unemployment
compensation, effective January 3, 2010, and ending January 1, 2011. Id. at ¶ 4. The
In his Local 56(a)(2) statement, Mr. Patterson references the Unemployment
Compensation Extension Act of 2010, P.L. 111-205, and argues that this Act entitles him to
continue receiving emergency benefits at his previous, higher rate of $483, instead of the
redetermined $15 rate. Pl.’s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at ¶¶ 8-9. While the court will not comment on
the substance of the Act, it notes that amendments made by the Act apply only “to individuals
whose benefit years . . . as amended by this section [entitled “Coordination of Emergency
Unemployment Compensation with Regular Compensation”], expire after the date of enactment
of this Act.” Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2010, PL 111-205, July 22, 2010,
124 Stat 2236 (emphasis added). The Act was approved July 22, 2010, long after Mr.
Patterson’s benefit year, effective July 6, 2008, expired. As such, the Act does not entitle him to
a continuation of his emergency benefits at the higher rate.
base period was January 1, 2009 to December 31, 2009, with quarterly wages within
that base period used to determine the weekly benefit rate of $15.3 Id. Benefits were
extended for 26 weeks, with a maximum benefit of $390. Id. Mr. Patterson called the
Administrator upon receiving the determination,4 but continued to receive benefits at the
previous $483 weekly rate. Id.; Pl.’s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at ¶ 4. The Administrator
concedes it mistakenly paid Mr. Patterson emergency benefits5 at the higher weekly
rate through April 18, 2010, but is not charging Mr. Patterson for the overpayment of
those benefits. Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶¶ 10-11.
On April 23, 2010, the Administrator mailed Mr. Patterson another monetary
determination for the Connecticut state unemployment claim effective January 3, 2010.
Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 6; Pl.’s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at ¶ 5. The determination was
for EUC benefits, effective April 18, 2010.6 Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 6. The
determination referred to a benefit year from April 18, 2010 to January 1, 2011, a base
The $15 benefit rate was based on Mr. Patterson’s earnings of $639.72 in the fourth
quarter of 2009. Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 9. Mr. Patterson does not dispute this amount,
which is the amount used to determine his benefit rate for his claim effective January 3, 2010.
Id. at ¶ 6.
While the Administrator maintains that it told Mr. Patterson he would receive another
monetary determination when he called, Mr. Patterson denies receiving such information. Defs.’
L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 4; Pl.’s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at ¶ 4.
He was, in fact, entitled at that time only to regular benefits in a new benefit year,
effective January 1, 2010. Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 11.
According to the Administrator, the April 23, 2010 claim for emergency benefits
resulted from the exhaustion of Mr. Patterson’s regular Connecticut state benefits claim,
effective January 1, 2010, to which he was entitled maximum benefits of $390. Defs.’ L.R.
56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶¶ 4-5. Because Mr. Patterson continued to receive benefits at the previous,
higher rate through April 17, 2010, the Administrator transferred those payments to his new
regular unemployment compensation claim, thus exhausting that claim. Upon exhaustion, Mr.
Patterson was then entitled to emergency unemployment compensation at his newly determined
Connecticut state benefit rate. Id. at ¶¶ 5-7.
Mr. Patterson does not address this issue in his papers.
period from October 1, 2008 to September 30, 2009, with quarterly wages within that
base period used to determine the benefit rate. Id. The weekly benefit rate was $15 for
an additional 20 weeks, with a maximum benefit of $300. Id.
On April 29, 2010, Mr. Patterson appealed the Administrator’s redetermination of
his benefit rate, as documented in the April 23, 2010 determination. Defs.’ L.R.
56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 13; Pl.’s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at ¶ 7. The Referee held a hearing on
June 15, 2010 and, on June 29, 2010, reaffirmed the Administrator’s determination of
the new benefit rate and dismissed Mr. Patterson’s appeal. Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at
¶ 13; Pl.’s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at ¶ 7; Patterson v. Administrator, Case No. 1901-AA-10,
Decision of Appeals Referee dated June 29, 2010. Mr. Patterson was present at the
hearing and was given an opportunity to present evidence. Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at
¶ 13; Pl.’s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at ¶ 7.
On July 6, 2010, Mr. Patterson appealed the Referee’s decision to the Board of
Review, which affirmed the Referee’s decision and dismissed Mr. Patterson’s appeal on
August 27, 2010. Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 14; Patterson v. Administrator, Case
No. 1256-BR-10, Decision of the Board of Review, August 27, 2010. Mr. Patterson
subsequently filed a motion to reopen the Board’s decision on September 24, 2010; this
motion was denied on December 8, 2010. Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 15; Patterson
v. Administrator, Case No. 1356-BR-10, Decision of the Board of Review on Claimant’s
Motion to Reopen dated December 8, 2010. Mr. Patterson appealed this denial to the
Connecticut State Superior Court, which dismissed his appeal on July 25, 2011. Defs.’
L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶ 15. He then appealed the Superior Court dismissal to the
Connecticut State Appellate Court, which dismissed his appeal on August 29, 2011, for
failing to file certain papers necessary to pursue his appeal. Id.; Appellate Court Order
dated August 29, 2011.
The only remaining claim in this case is “Mr. Patterson’s federal constitutional
procedural due process claim for prospective, injunctive relief as to the Administrator.”
MTD at 23. Mr. Patterson claims he has been deprived of “due process of [an]
evidentiary hearing and/or judicial determination.” Pl.’s L.R. 56(a)(2) Stmt. at ¶ 6.
Furthermore, he claims that the February 21, 2010 monetary determination was final
after 21 days. Id.
Foremost, the court notes that Mr. Patterson has been given adequate due
process under the United States Constitution. Under Mathews v. Eldridge, a hearing
prior to the termination of benefits7 is not required for due process to be satisfied. 424
U.S. 319, 349 (1976). The Court in Mathews stated that the “essence of due process is
the requirement that a person in jeopardy of serious loss (be given) notice of the case
against him and opportunity to meet it. All that is necessary is that the procedures be
tailored, in light of the decision to be made, to the capacities and circumstances of those
who are to be heard, to insure that they are given a meaningful opportunity to present
their case.” Mathews, 424 U.S. 348-49 (internal quotations and citations omitted). As
The court finds Mr. Patterson’s unemployment compensation claim analogous to the
disability benefits claim discussed in Mathews. The Court in Mathews distinguished recipients of
disability benefits from recipients of welfare benefits, the latter of whom are discussed in
Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254 (1970). The Court in Mathews noted that while “due process
requires an evidentiary hearing prior to a temporary deprivation [of welfare benefits],” there is a
key difference between recipients of welfare assistance and disability benefits—namely, that
welfare recipients are “persons on the very margin of subsistence.” Mathews, 424 U.S. 340.
The same cannot be said for recipients of disability benefits, and, by the same logic, recipients
of unemployment assistance. Thus, the court finds Mathews to be controlling in this case.
detailed above, Mr. Patterson has been given adequate notice of the redetermination of
his benefits, and though he is not constitutionally entitled to a hearing prior to the
termination of his benefits, he has been given ample “opportunity to present [his] case”
through his numerous hearings and appeals. Mathews, 424 U.S. 349. As such, the
court finds that the procedure given to Mr. Patterson complies with the due process
owed him under the United States Constitution.
Connecticut law also supports the Administrator’s redetermination of Mr.
Patterson’s benefit rate. As established by Connecticut law, an individual’s benefit year
extends for 51 weeks following an initiating claim: “An individual's benefit year shall
commence with the beginning of the week with respect to which the individual has filed
a valid initiating claim and shall continue through the Saturday of the fifty-first week
following the week in which it commence.” Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 31-230. Thus, after
51 weeks, the benefit year for Mr. Patterson’s July 6, 2008 claim ended. Any new
earnings after this end date would go towards a new benefit year. In affirming the
Administrator’s redetermination of Mr. Patterson’s benefits, the Referee noted that the
decision “was explicitly premised on the requirement of federal law for redetermination
of his benefit rate for federal emergency benefits on the basis of his eligibility for regular
state benefits in a new benefit year at a redetermined rate.” Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at
¶ 13. Neither party disputes Mr. Patterson earned $639.72 in the fourth quarter of 2009,
which is the amount used to determine his benefit rate for his claim effective January 3,
2010. Defs.’ L.R. 56(a)(1) Stmt. at ¶¶ 6, 9.
Even though Mr. Patterson does not dispute his fourth quarter earnings in 2009,
he asserts that the erroneous monetary determination of February 21, 2010 mailed by
the Administrator—stating a $483 benefit rate—was final after 21 days. Pl.’s L.R.
56(a)(2) Stmt. at ¶ 3. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 31-241 states that “[t]he decision
[determining claims and benefits] of the administrator shall be final and benefits shall be
paid or denied in accordance therewith unless the claimant or any of such employers,
within twenty-one calendar days after such notification was mailed to his last-known
address, files an appeal from such decision and applies for a hearing.” Conn. Gen.
Stat. Ann. § 31-241. The statute makes clear that the claimant has 21 days to file an
appeal of the Administrator’s decision if he or she disagrees with the initial
determination, but it does not say that the Administrator is barred from redetermining
benefits after 21 days. To the contrary, Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 31-243 says that the
Administrator has continuous jurisdiction over the case.8 As such, the court rejects Mr.
Patterson’s contention that the Administrator’s February 21, 2010, determination was
final after 21 days.
Furthermore, an examination of the record reveals that Mr. Patterson has been
given more than adequate due process, with ample opportunities to have his case
heard. Under Connecticut law, when the Administrator determines a claimant’s
eligibility for benefits, it shall do so “promptly,” and “[n]otice of the decision and the
reasons therefor shall be given to the claimant.” Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 31-241.
Additionally, if a determination is appealed, “a referee shall promptly hear the claim, de
“Where the appellate tribunal has not taken jurisdiction, upon his own initiative, or upon
application of any party in interest, the administrator, or the examiner designated by him, may,
at any time within six months after the date of the original decision, or within such other time
limits as may be applicable under section 31-273, review an award of benefits or the denial of a
claim therefor, in accordance with the procedure prescribed in respect to claims, and may issue
a new decision, which may award, terminate, continue, increase or decrease such benefits.”
Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 31-243 (emphasis added).
novo, and render a decision thereon. . . . [N]otice, by mail or otherwise, of the time and
place of such hearing shall be given each interested party not less than five days prior
to the date appointed therefor. The parties, including the administrator, shall be notified
of the referee's decision, which notification shall be accompanied by a finding of the
facts and the conclusions of law upon which the decision is based.” Conn. Gen. Stat.
Ann. § 31-242.
The Administrator has followed its statutory mandate. Mr. Patterson received
notices on March 16 and April 23, 2010, with an explanation of the determination, and
when Mr. Patterson appealed these determinations, he was given a hearing in front of
the Referee, with notification of the decision, including all findings of facts and
conclusions of law. Patterson v. Administrator, Case No. 1901-AA-10, Decision of
Appeals Referee dated June 29, 2010. Furthermore, nowhere in the statute does it say
the Administrator had to be present at the hearing. Conn. Gen. Stat. Ann. § 31-242.
Upon his appeal to the Board of Review, Mr. Patterson received yet another explication
of the Board’s findings of fact and conclusion of law. Patterson v. Administrator, Case
No. 1256-BR-10, Decision of the Board of Review, August 27, 2010. He also received a
decision from the Board of Review explaining its decision not to reopen the August 27,
2010, decision. Patterson v. Administrator, Case No. 1356-BR-10, Decision of the
Board of Review on Claimant’s Motion to Reopen dated December 8, 2010. Mr.
Patterson also had two additional appeals, to the Connecticut state Superior and
Appellate Courts. Given the many notifications and lengthy procedure and process
afforded Mr. Patterson, this court cannot find that Mr. Patterson’s federal constitutional
procedural due process rights were violated.
For the foregoing reasons, the Administrator’s Motion for Summary Judgment
(Doc. No. 97) is GRANTED. Plaintiff’s Motion to Speed this Process (Doc. No. 108) is
terminated as moot.
Dated at New Haven, Connecticut this 17th day of March, 2014.
/s/ Janet C. Hall
Janet C. Hall
United States District Judge
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