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Tambe v. Bowen

decided: February 12, 1988.

RONALD AND LINDA TAMBE, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
OTIS R. BOWEN, AS SECRETARY OF THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, CESAR PERALES, AS COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, AND W. BURTON RICHARDSON, AS DIRECTOR OF THE MONROE COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, DEFENDANTS, OTIS R. BOWEN, AS SECRETARY OF THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, CESAR PERALES, AS COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL SERVICES, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS



Appeal from a judgment entered June 23, 1987 in the Western District of New York, Michael A. Telesca, District Judge, 662 F. Supp. 939, granting appellees' cross-motion for summary judgment, granting appellees' motion for class certification, and denying appellants' cross-motion for summary judgment in an action involving a conflict between, on the one hand, federal and state regulations with respect to AFDC payments, and, on the other hand, a federal statute with respect to such payments.

Timbers, Kearse and Pierce, Circuit Judges.

Author: Timbers

TIMBERS, Circuit Judge:

Appellants Otis R. Bowen, Secretary of Health & Human Services, and Cesar Perales, Commissioner of the New York State Department of Social Services ("appellants"), appeal from a judgment entered June 23, 1987 in the Western District of New York, Michael A. Telesca, District Judge, 662 F. Supp. 939, granting the cross-motion for summary judgment of appellees Ronald and Linda Tambe ("appellees"); granting appellees' motion for class certification; and denying appellants' cross-motion for summary judgment.

We affirm.

In April 1984, appellee Ronald Tambe ("Tambe") decided to move back into the household of his wife and their five year old son. Linda Tambe and her son had been receiving public assistance under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children ("AFDC") program. Tambe, who was unemployed at the time he moved back, applied to be added to his wife's public assistance grant. The Monroe County Department of Social Services denied Tambe's application on the ground that Tambe allegedly had failed to register with the New York Employment Services Division.

Tambe requested a "fair hearing" to contest the denial of benefits. After it had been rescheduled several times, the hearing was held on October 30, 1984. By this time, Tambe had found work and the family no longer was receiving public assistance benefits.

On March 13, 1985, the New York State Department of Social Services rendered its fair hearing decision. The decision stated that the denial of Tambe's request to be added to his wife's public assistance grant was incorrect because Tambe had shown that he in fact had registered with the Employment Services Division. Nonetheless, the agency declined to grant Tambe the relief requested on the ground that Tambe no longer was a recipient of public assistance benefits.

The agency denied relief on this ground because certain federal and state regulations provided that underpayments would be corrected only when the person requesting benefits was a current recipient of public assistance. See 45 C.F.R. § 233.20(a)(13)(ii) (1982); 18 NYCRR § 352.31(f) (1983). The agency informed Tambe that he would not receive benefits unless he again became a recipient of public assistance.

On April 24, 1985, Ronald and Linda Tambe commenced the instant action individually and on the behalf of all those similarly situated. They named as defendants appellants and W. Burton Richardson, Director of the Monroe County Department of Social Services. The Tambes asserted that the regulations that had barred relief violated the Omnibus Budget and Reconciliation Act ("OBRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(22) (Supp. III 1985), and the Fourteenth Amendment. The parties filed cross-motions for summary judgment. On June 23, 1987, the district court certified the class and granted the Tambes' motion for summary judgment while denying appellants' motion for summary judgment. The court held that the regulations did violate OBRA. 662 F. Supp. 939, 941-42 (W.D.N.Y. 1987).

OBRA provides in pertinent part:

"A State plan for aid and services to needy families with children must --

(22) provide that the State agency will promptly take all necessary steps to correct any overpayment or underpayment of aid under the State Plan and, in the case of --

(A) an overpayment to an individual who is a current recipient of such aid (including a current recipient whose overpayment occurred during a prior period of eligibility), recovery will be made by repayment by the individual or by reducing the amount of any future aid payable to the family of which he is a member, except that such recovery shall not result in the reduction of aid payable for any month, such that the aid, when added to such family's liquid resources and to its income (without application of paragraph (8)), is less than 90 percent of the amount payable under the State plan to a family of the same composition with no other income (and, in the case of an ...


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