Crawford v. Social Rehabilitation Services of Wyandotte County, Kansas et al
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER. The plaintiff's complaint is dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and on Eleventh Amendment immunity grounds; and the plaintiff's renewed request for appointment of counsel (Dk. 8) is denied. See attached for more details. Signed by U.S. District Senior Judge Sam A. Crow on 8/22/2012. Mailed to pro se party: Ms. Brismaegi A. Crawford, 5480 Woodstock Street, Shawnee, KS 66218 by certified mail; Certified Tracking Number: 70082810000136784489 and by regular mail.(bmw)
IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE
DISTRICT OF KANSAS
BRISMAEGI A. CRAWFORD,
SOCIAL AND REHABILITATION
SERVICES OF WYANDOTTE COUNTY,
KANSAS; PAUL GREEN; and BILL DOW,
MEMORANDUM AND ORDER
The pro se plaintiff, Brismaegi A. Crawford, filed this civil action
naming as the defendants the state agency, Social and Rehabilitation
Services (“SRS”), her SRS case worker, Paul Green, and Mr. Green’s
supervisor, Bill Dow. The plaintiff complains that the SRS is seeking to
recover public assistance benefits overpaid her during the period of 2009
through 2011. The plaintiff blames Paul Green and Bill Dow for authorizing
her receipt of benefits and seeks a waiver of her liability for repayment
based on her inability to pay and based on her open and honest applications
and cooperation for public assistance. She also seeks monetary damages
equal to the overpaid benefits and punitive damages.
The Magistrate Judge Gary Sebelius filed an order to show cause
“why this case should not be dismissed for lack of subject-matter
jurisdiction, why this case is not barred by Eleventh-Amendment immunity,
and why this case should not be dismissed for failure to state a claim upon
which relief may be granted because, among other things, plaintiff has failed
to allege the denial of a federal constitutional right, and plaintiff has failed to
allege the individual defendants’ personal involvement in the denial of a
federal constitutional right.” (Dk. 5, p. 2). The plaintiff has responded with
filing a 35-page pleading that consists of eight pages of handwritten
assertions and then exhibits including correspondence, notices and
documentation apparently related to the plaintiff’s receipt of public
assistance benefits and the state’s efforts to collect its overpayment of
benefits. (Dk. 8). The plaintiff’s pleading fails to address how her claim
alleges the denial of a federal constitutional right and fails to overcome the
Eleventh Amendment bar to her action.
Because the plaintiff is seeking to proceed in forma pauperis, the
court shall review the complaint and may dismiss it if the action is frivolous,
fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted, or seeks monetary
relief against a defendant who is immune from such relief. 28 U.S.C. §
1915(e)(2)(B)(i)--(iii). The court is to accept as true all well-pleaded facts
and is to draw all reasonable inferences from those facts in favor of the
plaintiff. Moore v. Guthrie, 438 F.3d 1036, 1039 (10th Cir. 2006). The
court, however, is not under a duty to accept legal conclusions as true.
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009). Although pro se filings will be
construed liberally, this court “will not supply additional factual allegations to
round out a plaintiff's complaint or construct a legal theory on a plaintiff's
behalf.” Smith v. United States, 561 F.3d 1090, 1096 (10th Cir. 2009)
(internal quotation marks omitted), cert. denied, 130 S. Ct. 1142 (2010).
Dismissal of a complaint is warranted when the complaint does not contain
“enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell
Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). To avoid dismissal, a
plaintiff must “nudge[ ][his] claims across the line from conceivable to
plausible.” Id. To be facially plausible, the complaint must contain factual
content from which the Court can reasonably infer that defendants are liable
for the misconduct which plaintiff alleges. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. at
The plaintiff’s response reveals that she has been pursuing her
administrative review remedies against the SRS’s efforts to collect the
overpayment but that she has not been successful in her efforts. “The KCAO
Appeal Summary” dated September 30, 2011, states that the overpayment
was due to “agency error” caused because Joseph Turner had not been
considered in “the cash assistance or food assistance cases.” (Dk. 8, p. 8).
It further states: “Not including Mr. Turner in Ms. Crawford’s assistance
cases was due to Agency Error. That overpayment is still recouped per
regulations.” Id. Also included in her attachments is a limited actions
petition filed by the SRS in March of 2011 that seeks to recover the
overpayments and alleges Ms. Crawford had “failed to report correct
information.” (Dk. 8, p. 19). Ms. Crawford asserts the SRS has informed
her in a telephone call in August of 2011 that this action had been dismissed
“for not being fraudulent.” (Dk. 8, p. 3). Ms. Crawford complains that the
SRS has not sent proof of this dismissal as it promised. Id.
In her response to the show cause order issued by this court,
Ms. Crawford writes:
Why this case should not be dismissed because I am fighting for my
rights. I am one person with nothing. I was open and honest with my
caseworker Paul Green from the start. I told him everything and he
kept on giving me assistance, even though he knew that my husband
was the only one working.
(Dk. 8, p. 1). She then describes her different contacts with SRS
caseworkers and her representations to them about her financial condition
and her living arrangements in 2009 through June of 2011. The plaintiff also
includes the following:
Around June 2011 I received a letter of overpayment to the SRS for
$16,000.00 for not adding Joseph Turner as the father of Isaiah
Crawford, which was a lie b/c I filled out child support questionnaire
forms for my son’s father back in 2008. . . .
Then in October 2011 I start receiving letters from the SRS that
due to an agency error of overpayment I had to repay back all the
money I was getting for cash assistance, food stamps and daycare
back to them. From 2009 to 2011. I fought their decisions again
because it did not make any sense why I had to pay back any $ when
I gave my caseworker Paul Green all the proof, so how on my part is
that my fault? When I appealed my case I was denied 3x’s. I
explained to the State Appeals Committee Judge and he ordered I paid
it all back. So I appealed it again, and once again the man over the
appeals sided w/ the SRS. I told him or tried to explain that I had no
money and no income how could I repay. It didn’t matter. So I felt
like my rights was being taken away. No one heard me. So I started
doing my own research which got me right here in your federal court.
No help! No money! Nothing! I got this far on my own. Now I
have the chance for someone to hear me! I don’t know my laws that
well that’s why I asked for an appointed counsel to help me through.
(Dk. 8, pp. 3-4). In sum, the plaintiff does not believe that she should be
liable for repaying benefits overpaid because of agency error and that the
state agency’s failure to recognize her position as a valid and complete
defense to liability is a denial of rights, particularly when she lacks the
financial means to repay the benefits.
From reading her complaint and her expanded response, the
court is unable to find any constitutional claim actionable in federal court.
The exhibits attached to the plaintiff’s response explain the state’s
overpayment collection proceeding is based on the Kansas Economic and
Employment Support Manual (“KEESM”) governing these public assistance
programs. The online administrative manual plainly recognizes the state’s
ability to recover overpayments due to agency error and specifies the
applicable procedures and methods for collection.1 There is nothing to
suggest that the plaintiff did not receive these public assistance benefits on
the condition of her acceptance of and cooperation with the program’s
established procedures and terms. The plaintiff has not alleged any
http://content.dcf.ks.gov/EES/KEESM/Keesm.htm. Claims for
overpayment due to agency error are addressed at KEESM 11121.1. The
collection procedures are specified at KEESM 11126. The court is not
attaching PDF documents of these resources, as the exact terms are not
material to this order.
constitutional violation with those administrative proceedings generally or
with how they have been applied to her.
The Eleventh Amendment provides an immunity from federal
suits against state agencies for damages and other forms of relief. Federal
Maritime Comm'n v. S.C. State Ports Auth., 535 U.S. 743, 765 (2002). This
includes federal suits against state officers in their official capacities, Ruiz v.
McDonnell, 299 F.3d 1173, 1180 (10th Cir. 2002), cert. denied, 538 U.S.
999 (2003), but the Eleventh Amendment does not bar such official capacity
suits that seek only prospective relief, Chamber of Commerce v.
Edmondson, 594 F.3d 742, 760 (10th Cir.2010). The court does not find
any genuinely cognizable claim for prospective relief. The plaintiff's pleading
fails to specify the requested form of declaratory relief, and whatever is
requested appears to address only her liability for past acts that will not
recur. Ysais v. New Mexico, 373 Fed. Appx. 863, 866, 2010 WL 1511403
(10th Cir.), cert. denied, 131 S.Ct. 88 (2010). To the extent that plaintiff's
claims for prospective relief are premised on her rights existing under state
law, they are not cognizable under § 1983. Jones v. City and Cnty. of
Denver, Colo., 854 F.2d 1206, 1209 (10th Cir. 1988). Moreover, “in Will v.
Mich. Dep't of State Police, the Supreme Court held that, in suits for
damages, ‘neither a State nor its officials acting in their official capacities are
“persons” under § 1983.’ 491 U.S. 58, 71, 109 S.Ct. 2304, 105 L.Ed.2d 45
(1989).” Ross v. The Board of Regents of The University of New Mexico, 599
F.3d 1114, 1117 (10th Cir.2010).
“The burden is on the plaintiff to frame a ‘complaint with enough
factual matter (taken as true) to suggest’ that he or she is entitled to relief.”
Robbins v. Oklahoma, 519 F.3d 1242, 1247–48 (10th Cir. 2008) (quoting
Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. at 556). The allegations of the
complaint do not raise a claim of entitlement to relief against the named
defendants in either their official or individual capacities. As far as the
plaintiff’s assertion that this court may “review . . . [a] state court judgment
in a federal question context,” she has not presented any genuine federal
question context for such a review, and her mere dissatisfaction with the
state administrative process certainly is not enough to create such a context.
(Dk. 8, p. 7).
The court also denies any renewed request for appointment of
counsel. (Dk. 8, p. 4) Having reviewed the plaintiff's claims, her ability to
allege facts, and the absence of any actionable legal theory to her claims,
the court finds the appointment of counsel in this matter is not warranted.
See Long v. Shillinger, 927 F.2d 525, 526–27 (10th Cir. 1991) (factors to be
considered in deciding motion for appointment of counsel).
IT IS THEREFORE ORDERED that the plaintiff’s complaint is
dismissed for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted and
on Eleventh Amendment immunity grounds;
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that the plaintiff’s renewed request for
appointment of counsel (Dk. 8) is denied.
Dated this 22nd day of August, 2012, Topeka, Kansas.
s/ Sam A. Crow
Sam A. Crow, U.S. District Senior Judge
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