The opinion of the court was delivered by: OAKES
The named plaintiff and intervenor plaintiffs, welfare recipients, herein collectively "plaintiffs," seek on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, declaratory relief, injunctive relief, and damages against the Commissioner of the New York State Department of Social Services and the Commissioner of the Westchester County Department of Social Services. Plaintiffs claim that a New York welfare statute, N.Y.Soc.Serv.Law § 131(10) (McKinney's Consol.Laws, § 55 Supp.1973), and a regulation of the New York State Department of Social Services promulgated pursuant thereto, 18 N.Y.C.R.R. § 385.7,
violate the due process and equal protection clauses of the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution. The statute and regulation disqualify from receipt of assistance for 75 days persons who voluntarily terminate their employment or reduce their earning capacity for the purpose of qualifying for Home Relief or Aid to Families with Dependent Children. The claims of plaintiffs, as later more fully discussed, are specifically directed to a further provision of the statute and regulation which states that a person who applies for assistance within 75 days after voluntarily terminating his employment or reducing his earning capacity shall "be deemed" to have done so "for the purpose of qualifying for such assistance or a larger amount thereof, in the absence of evidence to the contrary supplied by such person."
Jurisdiction of this court is based upon 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983 since plaintiffs' complaint alleges a substantial claim involving the denial by defendants, acting under color of state law, of rights guaranteed by the fourteenth amendment to the United States Constitution. Declaratory relief is sought pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2201, injunctive relief under 28 U.S.C. § 2202 and compensatory and punitive damages under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 534-543, 94 S. Ct. 1372, 1378-1382, 39 L. Ed. 2d 577 (1974).
Because plaintiffs seek to enjoin the enforcement of a state statute, N.Y.Soc.Serv.Law § 131(10) (McKinney Supp.1973), on the ground that it is contrary to the Constitution of the United States, a three-judge court was convened pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2281, 2284.
There are before the court motions from three separate movants: plaintiffs, intervenors and defendant Lavine. The first motions to be considered will be those by plaintiffs (1) for an order determining that the action may be maintained as a class action (Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(c) (1)), and (2) for "final summary judgment in favor of plaintiffs for the declaratory and injunctive relief prayed for in paragraphs (D), (E) and (F) of the Wherefore Clause of the Amended Complaint" (Fed.R.Civ.P. 56). We shall first consider the summary judgment motion and later treat the class action motion.
Section 131(10) of the New York Social Services Law provides as follows:
Any person who voluntarily terminated his employment or voluntarily reduced his earning capacity for the purpose of qualifying for home relief or aid to dependent children or a larger amount thereof shall be disqualified from receiving such assistance for seventy-five days from such termination or reduction, unless otherwise required by federal law or regulation. Any person who applies for home relief or aid to dependent children or requests an increase in his grant within seventy-five days after voluntarily terminating his employment or reducing his earning capacity shall, unless otherwise required by federal law or regulation, be deemed to have voluntarily terminated his employment or reduced his earning capacity for the purpose of qualifying for such assistance or a larger amount thereof, in the absence of evidence to the contrary supplied by such person.
Plaintiffs make three basic arguments:
1. The statutory presumption of a wrongful intent to obtain welfare benefits is irrational and thus violates the due process clause because there is a logically insufficient connection between provable facts (that an applicant voluntarily terminated his employment or reduced his earning capacity) and the presumed fact (that he did so for the purpose of qualifying for assistance or a larger amount thereof);
2. The challenged statute operates conclusively to presume essential facts in violation of the due process clause because plaintiffs are not afforded timely hearings -- they have no opportunity to rebut the presumption of the statute and regulations at the time they apply for assistance and, by the time the State actually holds a hearing at which rebuttal evidence can be introduced and renders a final decision, the 75 days referred to in the statute have expired; and
3. The statute violates the equal protection clause because it arbitrarily burdens the plaintiffs' class with a presumption of ill motive -- other applicants for public assistance being entitled to apply and have their ...