The opinion of the court was delivered by: MOTLEY
This case was initiated in December, 1977, on behalf of public assistance applicants whose income and resources were so low that they were entitled to obtain food stamps at no cost and on an expedited basis. The complaint against officials of the City and State of New York alleged that the New York City Department of Social Services had no procedure for determining the eligibility for, and issuance of, expedited food stamp benefits to persons and households applying for public assistance.
Judge Frankel, initially assigned to this case, granted a temporary restraining order (TRO) directing that the requested benefits be issued to the named plaintiffs. On December 22, 1977 the City defendants announced an Interim Plan for the provision of expedited food stamp benefits to public assistance applicants. On January 23, 1978, Judge Frankel denied plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction and plaintiffs' motion for class certification.
Thereafter, on February 27, 1978, the City defendants implemented what shall be referred to as a "Permanent Plan" for providing expedited issuance of food stamp benefits to public assistance applicants. In July of that year, the City defendants filed a motion for summary judgment; the plaintiffs moved for leave to file a supplemental complaint adding several named plaintiffs and moved for class certification and partial summary judgment with respect to the "Permanent Plan."
After this case was transferred to the undersigned judge the plaintiffs' motion to permit the filing of a supplemental complaint was granted, to the extent that the complaint was to be designated as an intervenors' complaint. The court also determined that class certification was appropriate and certified the following two classes:
CLASS A: All persons who applied for public assistance in New York City between April 1, 1977 to December 22, 1977 and who were eligible for emergency food stamp benefits.
CLASS B: All persons who applied for public assistance in New York City between February 28, 1978 and August 15, 1978 and who were accepted for public assistance and who were denied emergency food stamp benefits as a result of more restrictive eligibility criteria applied to them by the defendant than was permitted by State and federal law.
Remaining to be decided by the court at this time are the City defendants' motion for summary judgment and plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment with respect to the "Permanent Plan." All parties agree that present food stamp regulations are not involved in this case and that the so-called "Permanent Plan" is no longer in effect.
Counsel for plaintiffs suggested in oral argument that plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment now be considered a motion for full summary judgment, adjudicating the claims of both Class A and Class B. As the papers submitted by counsel concerning the motion for partial summary judgment have thus far focused on the claims of Class B, the court declines to construe plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment as a motion for full summary judgment. Accordingly, the court now considers only the claims of Class B in this opinion. Of course, plaintiffs are free to file a motion for summary judgment adjudicating the claims of Class A, if plaintiffs so desire.
The food stamp program in the City of New York is a federally funded program pursuant to 7 U.S.C. § 2011 et seq. The purpose of the "Permanent Plan" was to provide an emergency Authority to Purchase (ATP) card which allowed food stamp purchases by applicants for public assistance who were awaiting certification of eligibility for welfare benefits and who were also entitled to emergency relief. Under this emergency program, an applicant received an application package containing information on emergency food stamps and then was scheduled by a receptionist for an interview appointment. At the interview, the public assistance applicant was screened for eligibility for public assistance. Applicants whose cases were later rejected received by mail a notice containing information about non-public assistance food stamps. Applicants whose cases were accepted for public assistance at the time of the interview were issued an ATP card under certain circumstances. Applicants whose cases were pending following the interview were issued an emergency "zero purchase" ATP card under certain circumstances the card allowed the applicant to obtain food stamps at no cost for thirty days. Eligibility for the card was to be determined by "the weight of the evidence"; the standard to be applied was a "no food/no resources" test.
Prior to December 22, 1977, however, there existed no procedure within the New York City Department of Social Services for certification pending verification nor any procedure for immediate issuance of "zero purchase" food stamp benefits to public assistance applicants.
City Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment
The City defendants have moved for summary judgment dismissing the entire case on the ground that this action is moot. The City defendants originally advanced two theories. First, it is argued, the City's "Permanent Plan" provided the relief sought by the original plaintiffs, emergency food stamp aid to public assistance applicants. Second, it was argued, the three original named plaintiffs had already been accorded full relief as a result of Judge Frankel's temporary restraining order (TRO).
The City defendants' arguments must fail in light of the subsequent course of litigation in this case. First, this court granted plaintiffs' motion to permit the filing of a supplemental complaint which this court designated as an intervenors' complaint. As this complaint introduced several new plaintiffs who have not received any relief, the fact that the original named plaintiffs may have received full relief under the TRO is of no particular importance. Second, this court granted plaintiffs' motion for class certification. Even if this case were moot with respect to all named plaintiffs, which it is not, this is certainly a case where class certification should "relate back" to the filing of the original ...