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MCCOY v. BERGLAND

August 6, 1981

Mary Lou McCOY; Kay Ralston; Valerie Carey; Denise E. Rowley; Catherine Wood; Deborah Hutchings; and Diane Kleine; individually and on behalf of their respective food stamp households, Plaintiffs,
v.
Bob BERGLAND, as Secretary of Agriculture; Barbara B. Blum, as Commissioner of the New York State Department of Social Services; Robert Wagner, as Commissioner of the Tompkins County Department of Social Services; and David A. Adinolfi, as Commissioner of the Cortland County Department of Social Services, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MUNSON

MEMORANDUM-DECISION AND ORDER

The plaintiffs are recipients of benefits under the Food Stamp Act of 1977, 7 U.S.C. § 2013 et seq., and under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) Act, 42 U.S.C. § 601 et seq. Their AFDC grants included monies for the benefit of the plaintiffs' unborn children. They have commenced this action for restitution and for declaratory and injunctive relief, raising the question of whether AFDC allowances for unborn children must be excluded as income under the food stamp program as monies for third-party beneficiaries. Jurisdiction is alleged to lie under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1337 and 1346.

 Presently before the Court are the defendant Blum's motion to dismiss the complaint, the defendant Bergland's motion for judgment on the pleadings, and the plaintiffs' cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings.

 I.

 Several facts are common to all plaintiffs. When each plaintiff was ascertained to be four months pregnant, the departments of social services increased the AFDC allowance to reflect the presence of the unborn child in the AFDC household. See 45 C.F.R. § 233.90(c)(2)(ii); 18 N.Y.C.R.R. § 352.20(b). Thereafter, the AFDC allowances for the unborn children were counted as income in determining the amount of food stamp benefits. The plaintiffs claim that the defendants should have excluded the AFDC allowances as "money(s) received and used for the care and maintenance of ... third party beneficiar(ies) who (are) not ... household member(s)." 7 U.S.C. § 2014(d)(6); 7 C.F.R. § 273.9(c)(6). As a result of the defendants' inclusion of the AFDC allowances for unborn children, the plaintiffs suffered a reduction in their food stamp benefit levels.

 Following state administrative proceedings, the plaintiffs instituted this action against the named federal and state defendants. Against all defendants, the plaintiffs assert that inclusion of the AFDC allowance contravenes 7 U.S.C. § 2014(d)(6) and 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Against the federal defendant, the plaintiffs claim that the Secretary's failure to compel the state and county defendants to exclude the AFDC allowance for unborn children amounts to a violation of his duty to assure compliance with the Federal Food Stamp Act.

 II.

 In her motion to dismiss, the State Commissioner first raises a jurisdictional question. She claims that the plaintiffs' failure to allege a violation either of the federal Constitution or of a statute providing for equal rights precludes relief under Section 1983, and thus jurisdiction does not lie under 28 U.S.C. §§ 1337 and 1346.

 In presenting this argument, the State Commissioner has asserted an erroneous proposition of law. In Maine v. Thiboutot, 448 U.S. 1, 4-8, 100 S. Ct. 2502, 2503-2506, 65 L. Ed. 2d 555 (1980), the Supreme Court specifically rejected such an analysis of Section 1983, and concluded that this statute contemplated violations of federal laws unrelated to equal rights.

 For this reason, the defendants' motion to dismiss on this ground is denied.

 III.

 The second prong of the defendant Blum's motion to dismiss, which concerns the plaintiffs' alleged failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, is identical to the thrust of the defendant Bergland's motion for judgment on the pleadings. Both defendants contend that the AFDC allowances for unborn children are countable income under the Food Stamp Act, relying on 7 C.F.R. § 273.9(b)(2)(i), and that these allowances are not payments on behalf of third-party beneficiaries. In their cross-motion for judgment on the pleadings, the plaintiffs argue that unborn children are third-party beneficiaries within the meaning of 7 U.S.C. § 2014(d)(6) and 7 C.F.R. § 273.9(c)(6).

 A.

 Before addressing the nature of the AFDC allowance for unborn children under the food stamp program, it is first necessary to discuss the role of ...


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