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CHURCH v. BLOCK

September 25, 1981

Claude CHURCH, Plaintiff,
v.
John BLOCK,1 in his capacity as Secretary of Agriculture of the United States, and Barbara Blum, individually, and in her capacity as Commissioner of the New York State Department of Social Services, and James Dodds, individually and in his capacity as Commissioner of the Delaware County Department of Social Services, Defendants.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: MCCURN

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Plaintiff, Claude Church, has brought this action against the state and federal defendants challenging sanctions imposed on him by the state defendants concerning his public assistance benefits under the federal and state programs of Aid for Dependent Children (ADC), and Food Stamps. The Court has jurisdiction over these claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and 28 U.S.C. § 1331. *fn2" Now before this Court are the state and federal defendants' motions for summary judgment, pursuant to Rule 56 of the Fed.R.Civ.Pro., and the plaintiff's cross-motion for summary judgment. The state defendants also move to dismiss the complaint under Rule 12 of Fed.R.Civ.Pro.

I

 Mr. Church is a resident of Delaware County who had been receiving public assistance and food stamps prior to this action. The plaintiff is married and has three children. At the time this action was brought, his wife and children were residing with him. The facts giving rise to this litigation are as follows.

 On August 13, 1979, the Delaware County Department of Social Services (County) referred the plaintiff to a Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) program for a job interview. Mr. Church was offered the job and given an application form. However, upon learning the nature of the job, the plaintiff left the office before the application and the interview were completed. The County notified Mr. Church on August 16, 1979, that he would be sanctioned for his refusal to accept the CETA job. The County proposed that, effective September 1, 1979, the plaintiff's ADC benefits would be reduced from that for a family of five to that for a family of four for ninety (90) days, he would be disqualified for medicaid for ninety (90) days, and his household would be disqualified for food stamps for a period of two months, or until such time as the plaintiff was referred to, and accepted, another job.

 On August 30th, and again on September 4, 1979, the plaintiff reported to the New York State Employment office and stated that he was willing to accept the job that had been offered to him, or any other job to which he would be referred. Thereafter, a fair hearing was held on September 21, 1979. The Hearing Officer upheld the County, and the proposed sanctions were scheduled to be effective on December 1, 1979.

 Plaintiff filed a complaint in the Northern District of New York in December, 1979, and requested a preliminary injunction against the imposition of these sanctions. This Court granted the preliminary injunction on January 31, 1980. On February 4, 1980, the plaintiff amended his complaint to include causes of action on behalf of his family. Thereafter, all of the parties moved for summary judgment. The Court has been informed by the parties that the plaintiff's wife and children are no longer residing with him, therefore, the causes of action alleged on their behalf are now moot. *fn3"

 II

 The state defendants have moved, pursuant to Rule 12 of the Fed.R.Civ.Pro., to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint on the grounds that (1) the Federal District Court does not have subject matter jurisdiction, (2) the plaintiff has failed to exhaust administrative remedies, and (3) the complaint fails to state a cause of action.

 This Court finds that subject matter jurisdiction is present. *fn4" As to the allegation that the plaintiff has failed to exhaust state administrative remedies by failing to commence an Article 78 proceeding, *fn5" the Court observes that such a proceeding is judicial rather than administrative in nature. *fn6" Arguments presented in support of the state defendants' allegation that the plaintiff has failed to state a cause of action are more properly treated in the motion before the Court for summary judgment.

 Accordingly, the motion to dismiss is denied in its entirety.

 III

 The plaintiff's first two causes of action concern the state defendants' application of a ninety (90) day fixed sanction against the plaintiff's ADC benefits under 18 NYCRR § 358.8. *fn7" First, Mr. Church urges that the New York regulation conflicts with the federal law regarding the sanctions to be applied for violations of the work requirements contained in 42 U.S.C. § 602(a) (19)(F). Secondly, the plaintiff alleges that the application of this sanction violates the Fourteenth Amendment, equal protection clause, by providing a fixed sanction for all ADC recipients who do not reside in Work Incentive Program (WIN) districts in New York, while providing an open-ended sanction for those ADC recipients who reside in WIN districts. Finally, the plaintiff urges that the state defendants' imposition of a ninety (90) day sanction in this case violates the Fourteenth Amendment, equal protection clause, because the regulation only provides for a maximum thirty (30) day sanction for ADC recipients. Since other ADC recipients in New York who have refused to accept an offer of employment are only subjected to a thirty (30) day sanction, the plaintiff argues that the state defendants are not treating him as they would other similarly situated residents. *fn8" This Court finds that the application of a fixed sanction violates the statutory language contained in 42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(19)(F), therefore, the equal protection arguments advanced by the plaintiff need not be addressed. Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 549, 94 S. Ct. 1372, 1385, 39 L. Ed. 2d 577 (1974); Cordova v. Reed, supra at 625; Harrington v. Blum, 483 F. Supp. 1015, 1019 n.1 (S.D.N.Y.1979).

 New York State has elected to participate in the federal ADC program, and so is required to comply with the applicable federal laws and regulations. Philbrook v. Glodgett, 421 U.S. 707, 95 S. Ct. 1893, 44 L. Ed. 2d 525 (1975); Hagans v. Lavine, supra; Bizjak v. Blum, 490 F. Supp. 1297 (N.D.N.Y.1980). The federal law in issue here, 42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(19)(F), states in pertinent part that a recipient of ADC benefits may be sanctioned by removing his needs when determining the amount of benefits payable "if and for so long as any child, relative, or individual (who is not exempt from the requirements) ... has been found ... to have refused without good cause to accept employment in which he is able to engage which is offered through the public employment offices of the state." (emphasis added).

 The federal regulations do not have a parallel provision regarding sanctions for a recipient's refusal to accept a bona fide offer of employment through the state's employment agency. However, federal regulations do provide for denial of ADC aid "if and for so long as the child's father ... is not registered with a public ...


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