Martin et al v. Werner et al

Filing 25

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER granting 12 plaintiffs' Motion for TRO. Signed by Judge John T. Elfvin on 2/21/06. (RAZ)

Download PDF
Martin et al v. Werner et al Doc. 25 Case 1:06-cv-00094-JTE Document 25 Filed 02/21/2006 Page 1 of 7 U N IT E D STATES DISTRICT COURT W E S T E R N DISTRICT OF NEW YORK TONIA MARTIN, D IA N A GRAFF and V I C K I E WOODS, on behalf of themselves and all others similarly situated, P l a i n t if f s , 0 6 - C V- 0 0 9 4 E ( S c ) M EM ORANDUM -v s and M IC H A E L WEINER, as Commissioner of the Erie County Department of Social Services, and R O B E RT DOAR, as Commissioner of the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance, D e fe n d a n t s . ORDER1 On February 10, 2006 the named Plaintiffs Tonia Martin, Diana Graff and Vic k ie Woods filed a Complaint seeking relief on their own behalf and on behalf of a class of persons similarly situated alleging violations of the Food Stamp Act, th e Medicaid Act, New York State Social Services Law and the Due Process C la u s e of the Fourteenth Amendment, all in violation of 42 U.S.C. 1983, in that D e fe n d a n t Michael Weiner, as Commissioner of the Erie County Department of S o c ia l Services ("the County"), failed to timely process their applications for food s ta m p s , Medicaid and/or temporary assistance, and Defendant Robert Doar, as C om m iss ion e r of the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability 1 This decision may be cited in whole or in any part. Dockets.Justia.com Case 1:06-cv-00094-JTE Document 25 Filed 02/21/2006 Page 2 of 7 A s s is ta n c e ("the State"), failed to properly oversee the County's administration o f the food stamp, Medicaid and/or temporary assistance programs. On February 1 5 , 2006 at 7:25 p.m. Plaintiffs filed a motion for an ex parte temporary restraining o rd e r, a copy of which motion was provided to the undersigned on February 16, 2 0 0 6 . Because Plaintiffs had previously served the Defendants with the Summons a n d Complaint and also served Defendants on February 15, 2006 with copies of th e motion for a temporary restraining order and the supporting papers, the Court d e c lin e d to issue a temporary restraining order on an ex parte basis and s c h e d u le d the matter for oral argument on February 17, 2006. In order to obtain an temporary restraining order, Plaintiffs must d e m o n s tr a te that the order is necessary to prevent irreparable harm and that they a re likely to succeed on the merits of their claims or that there are sufficiently s e rio u s questions going to the merits of the claims to make them a fair ground for litig a tion , with a balance of hardships tipping decidedly in Plaintiffs' favor. See P h illip v. Fairfield Univ., 118 F.3d 131, 133 (2d Cir. 1997). Because the Plaintiffs s e e k a mandatory injunction requiring the County to perform certain acts rather th a n refraining from performing certain acts, Plaintiffs must show a greater lik elih oo d of success on the merits of their claims. See Tom Doherty Assocs. Inc. v. Saban Entm't Inc., 60 F.3d 27, 34 (2d Cir. 1995). -2- Case 1:06-cv-00094-JTE Document 25 Filed 02/21/2006 Page 3 of 7 A f te r reviewing the submissions of the parties and hearing oral argument, th e Court concludes that Plaintiffs have satisfactorily demonstrated that, if a te m p o r a r y restraining order does not issue, they have suffered and will continue to suffer immediate irreparable injury consisting of the deprivation of food stamps, M e d ic a id coverage and/or temporary assistance for which they are likely eligible. " D e n y in g welfare benefits to an eligible applicant may deprive that person `of the v e r y means by which to live.'" Reynolds v. Giuliani, 35 F. Supp.2d 331, 339 ( S . D .N .Y. 1999) (quoting Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 264 (1970)). "To indigent p e r s o n s , the loss of even a portion of subsistence benefits constitutes irreparable in j u r y." Ibid. (quoting Morel v. Giuliani, 927 F. Supp. 622, 635 (S.D.N.Y. 1995)). P la in tiffs have also satisfactorily demonstrated that they are likely to prevail o n the merits of their claims. Under the Food Stamp Act, eligible applicants are to be provided with food stamps as soon as possible, but no later than 30 calendar d a y s following the date the application was filed. 7 U.S.C. 2020(e)(3). With re q u e s ts for expedited food stamps, eligible applicants must receive them no later th a n 7 days after filing the application. 7 U.S.C. 2020(e)(9). A household is e n t itle d to apply for food stamps on the first day it contacts the food stamp office. 7 U.S.C. 2020(e)(B)(iii). Under the Medicaid Act, applications must be processed a n d eligibility determined within 45 days. 42 C.F.R. 435.911(a)(2). -3- Case 1:06-cv-00094-JTE Document 25 Filed 02/21/2006 Page 4 of 7 P la in t iffs provided sworn declarations in support of the motion for a te m p o r a r y restraining order which aver the following facts. On December 30, 2 0 0 5 Plaintiff Tonia Martin reapplied for food stamps, Medicaid and public a s s is ta n c e . She subsequently received a letter from the County scheduling her c e r tific a tio n appointment (necessary in order to obtain benefits) for March 13, 2 0 0 6 . While she believes she is still covered under Medicaid, she has not been re c e iv in g food stamps. Plaintiff Diana Graff is a single mother of two children. On D e c e m b e r 16, 2005 she applied for Medicaid benefits and for temporary cash a s s is t a n c e . She was informed that she was eligible for those benefits but they w e re not provided to her at that time. Instead she was informed by letter that her c e r tific a tio n interview for those benefits was scheduled for February 21, 2006. As s h e was due to deliver her second child in January 2006, she inquired of the C o u n t y as to whether she could obtain an earlier date for her certification in t e r v ie w. She was told that no earlier date could be provided due to budget c o n s tr a in t s . She subsequently delivered her child without Medicaid coverage. Fin a lly, Plaintiff Vickie Woods is homeless and resides in a shelter with her three c h ild re n . On December 12, 2005 she applied for Medicaid, food stamps and public a s s is ta n c e . She began receiving food stamps on or about December 19, 2005 but h a s received no word as to when she will have her certification interview for M ed ic a id or public assistance. -4- Case 1:06-cv-00094-JTE Document 25 Filed 02/21/2006 Page 5 of 7 A t oral argument, the County asserted that it has provided or is in the p ro c e s s of providing all of the relief sought by means of the temporary restraining o rd e r and thus such order is unnecessary. At argument, the County represented th a t Tonia Martin's case had been opened on February 12, 2006, that she was s c h ed u le d to receive a check on February 17, 2006 for a security deposit for an a p a r tm e n t which would allow her to move out of the shelter, that she will be re c e iv in g food stamps as of March 1, 2006, that she will be receiving a shelter a llo w a n c e and that she has been receiving "non-public" food stamps throughout h er application process. The County indicated that Diana Graff's certification appointment is s c h e d u le d for Tuesday, February 21, 2006 2 and, if eligible, her benefits will c om m en c e . The County also indicated that Medicaid benefits are retroactive to 9 0 days prior to the application for benefits. The County made no representation a s to how long it would take Graff's benefits to begin if she is found eligible. With re s p e c t to Vickie Woods, the County argued that she orally withdrew her a p p lic a t io n for public assistance on February 1, 2006 and supported such a rg u m e n t with a copy of a County-generated notice of withdrawal of application a d d re s s e d to Woods and dated February 15, 2006. The County further argued th a t, if its records are incorrect and Woods did not withdraw her application, she 2 Monday, February 20, 2006 was President's Day. -5- Case 1:06-cv-00094-JTE Document 25 Filed 02/21/2006 Page 6 of 7 w o u ld be provided with a certification appointment on Tuesday, February 21, 2 0 0 6 . At argument, Woods disputed the County's assertion that she withdrew h er application. Regardless of the status of her public assistance application, Wo o d s still has not been afforded a certification appointment with respect to her M ed ic a id application. The Court concludes that, notwithstanding the County's intended efforts to process Plaintiffs' applications, Plaintiffs have made the necessary showings a n d that a temporary restraining order should issue. It is accordingly O R D E R E D that the County is directed to: ( 1 ) expeditiously process Plaintiffs' applications and, if found eligible fo r food stamps, Medicaid and/or temporary assistance, provide such a s s is t a n c e within 2 business days of the date of this Order; (2) provide Plaintiffs with expedited food stamps and temporary prein v e s tig a tiv e grants within 24 hours of this Order; and (3) provide adequate written notice of determination of eligibility for a n y and all benefits for which each Plaintiff has applied and e lig ib ility for expedited food stamps within 2 business days of the d a t e of this Order; and it is further -6- Case 1:06-cv-00094-JTE Document 25 Filed 02/21/2006 Page 7 of 7 ORDERED that this Order will expire ten days after entry unless further e x te n d e d , for good cause shown, by Order of this Court or upon consent of the p a r tie s ; and it is further O R D E R E D that this Order is effective immediately and that no security is re q u ired to be posted pursuant to Rule 65(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Pro c e d u re ; and it is further O R D E R E D that this temporary restraining order is entered this 21st day of Feb r u a r y, 2006 at p.m., in Buffalo, New York. DATED: B u ffa lo, N.Y. Fe b r u a r y 21, 2006 /s/ John T. Elfvin JOHN T. ELFVIN S.U.S.D.J.

Disclaimer: Justia Dockets & Filings provides public litigation records from the federal appellate and district courts. These filings and docket sheets should not be considered findings of fact or liability, nor do they necessarily reflect the view of Justia.


Why Is My Information Online?