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REYNOLDS v. GIULIANI

May 24, 1999

LAKISHA REYNOLDS, GEORGINA BONILLA, APRIL SMILEY, LUE GARLICK, ADRIANA CALABRESE, JENNY CUEVAS, AND ELSTON RICHARDS ON THEIR OWN BEHALF AND ON BEHALF OF ALL OTHERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS,
v.
RUDOLPH GIULIANI, AS MAYOR OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK; JASON TURNER, AS COMMISSIONER OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK HUMAN RESOURCES ADMINISTRATION; BRIAN J. WING, AS COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK STATE OFFICE OF TEMPORARY AND DISABILITY ASSISTANCE; AND DENNIS WHELAN, AS COMMISSIONER OF THE NEW YORK STATE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Pauley, District Judge.

MEMORANDUM AND ORDER

Defendants Rudolph Giuliani, Mayor of the City of New York, and Jason Turner, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Social Services, (the "City defendants") move to modify a preliminary injunction entered by this Court on January 25, 1999. See Reynolds v. Giuliani, 35 F. Supp.2d 331 (S.D.N.Y. 1999). For the reasons that follow, the City defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.

Background

Beginning in March 1998, the New York City Human Resources Administration ("HRA") began to revamp its procedures concerning the administration of Food Stamps, Medicaid and cash assistance to needy applicants in an effort to implement various changes in federal and State law. In particular, HRA began to convert its existing "income support centers" to "job centers" where a greater emphasis is placed on moving applicants towards self-sufficiency through employment.

On December 16, 1998, plaintiffs moved by order to show cause for a preliminary injunction on behalf of a putative class of individuals who had been denied food stamps, Medicaid and cash assistance despite their alleged eligibility and dire need. Following a three-day evidentiary hearing on January 20, 21 and 22, 1999, this Court granted plaintiffs' application and enjoined the City defendants from opening new job centers or converting income support centers until the City formulated a corrective action plan that addressed apparent systemic violations of federal and State law.

The City defendants filed a corrective action plan on February 10, 1999. Over the next eight weeks, the parties conducted discovery and litigated the sufficiency of the City's initial proposals. During that period, the City defendants made numerous revisions to the Plan's policy directives, brochures, and forms in response to the plaintiffs' comments and objections. The Plan that emerged from that metamorphic process was materially different than the Plan submitted by the City defendants on February 10, 1999. The Court heard oral argument on the sufficiency of the corrective action plan on April 29, 1999.*fn1

Discussion

A. The Applicable Standard

When modifying a preliminary injunction, a court is charged with exercising the same discretion it exercised in granting or denying the injunction in the first instance. See Sierra Club v. United States Army Corps of Engineers, 732 F.2d 253, 256 (2d Cir. 1984). "An injunction is an ambulatory remedy that marches along according to the nature of the proceeding. It is executory and subject to adaption as events may shape the need, except where rights are fully accrued or facts are so nearly permanent as to be substantially impervious to change." Id. at 256.

The testimony and other evidence adduced at the evidentiary hearing prompted this Court to express concern that the urgent needs of numerous individuals, including children, expectant mothers, and the disabled, were being overlooked as HRA endeavored to convert income support centers into job centers. See Reynolds, 35 F. Supp.2d at 339. At that time, the City defendants asserted, and they continued to argue, that processing errors occur infrequently and that isolated mistakes are inevitable in a system that processes thousands of applications per week.*fn2 The City defendants argue that since they have formulated and started to implement a detailed corrective action plan, any risk of irreparable harm to the plaintiffs has been extinguished. The City's Plan as it emerged on April 29, 1999 is outlined below.

B. The Corrective Action Plan

This Court's January 25 Order identified six areas of concern to be addressed in the City defendants' corrective action plan. The City's six-part Plan is organized to correspond with those six areas of concern.

Item A of the corrective action plan sets forth procedures to permit applicants to file an application for food stamps, Medicaid, or cash assistance on the first day of contact with a job center. Under the City's plan, an applicant's completion of the revised Applicant Job Profile ("AJP") form starts the application process. Plaintiffs initially objected to HRA's use of the AJP form primarily because it had not been approved by the New York State Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance or the New York State Department of Health. However, in March 1999, those agencies approved a revised version of the AJP form. Thus, plaintiffs' objection to HRA's use of the AJP form is moot.

Item B of the corrective action plan sets forth procedures for ensuring separate determinations of eligibility for food stamps, Medicaid, and cash assistance. Under the Plan, the AJP form has been revised to prompt the applicant to make independent decisions concerning withdrawal from the application process for each category of benefit. Additionally, the AJP contains a Medicaid Application Option form in which the applicant is asked whether he wants a separate Medicaid determination if his cash application is denied. Medicaid brochures and food stamp brochures, which are distributed on the first day, have ...


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