2000 WL 760300, at *9-10 (S.D.N.Y. Jun. 12, 2000) (99 Civ.
10900(DLC)) (denying State officials' motion to dismiss claims
for prospective injunctive relief for violations of the Food
Stamp Act); Graus v. Kaladjian, 2 F. Supp.2d 540, 542 (S.D.N Y
1998) (denying State defendant's motion to dismiss claims for
prospective injunctive relief for violations of the Medicaid
Relying on Pennhurst, 465 U.S. at 101, 104 S.Ct. at 908, and
Seminole Tribe of Florida v. Florida, 517 U.S. 44, 75 n. 17,
116 S.Ct. 1114, 1133 n. 17, 134 L.Ed.2d 252 (1996), the State
defendants assert that the Ex Parte Young doctrine is
inapplicable. This argument is unpersuasive.
The State defendants contend that since defendants Wing and
DeBuono do not single-handedly oversee and supervise the State's
food stamp and Medicaid programs, respectively, this action is
barred under Pennhurst because the "the state is the real,
substantial party in interest." (State Defs.' Supp. Mem. at 11)
(citing Pennhurst, 465 U.S. at 101, 104 S.Ct. at 908). This
argument overlooks that Pennhurst resolved whether the Eleventh
Amendment shields a State official for violations of state law,
not for violations of federal law. Additionally, the Pennhurst
Court reiterated that there is an "important exception to this
general rule: a suit challenging the constitutionality of a state
official's action is not one against the State." Pennhurst, 465
U.S. at 102, 104 S.Ct. at 909 (citing Ex Parte Young,
209 U.S. 123, 28 S.Ct. 441, 52 L.Ed. 714; Edelman v. Jordan,
415 U.S. 651, 94 S.Ct. 1347, 39 L.Ed.2d 662 (1974)). As noted above, this
exception has since been expanded to violations of federal law.
The State defendants cite Seminole Tribe for the proposition
that the Ex Parte Young doctrine is inapplicable in this action
because the Food Stamp and Medicaid statutes only impose duties
on the "State agency" and not on state officials. (State Defs.'
Supp. Mem. at 11-12) (citing Seminole Tribe, 517 U.S. at 75 n.
17, 116 S.Ct. at 1133 n. 17). However, the Court in Seminole
Tribe described the limited situation in which the Ex Parte
Young doctrine is inapplicable — "where Congress prescribed a
detailed remedial scheme for the enforcement against a State of
a statutorily created right, a court should hesitate before
casting aside those limitations and permitting an action against
a state officer based on Ex parte Young." Seminole Tribe, 517
U.S. at 74, 116 S.Ct. at 1132 (emphasis added). In fact, the
Court specifically described the limited nature of its holding:
"[W]e do not hold that Congress cannot authorize federal
jurisdiction under Ex parte Young over a cause of action with a
limited remedial scheme. We find only that Congress did not
intend that result in the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act."
Seminole Tribe, 517 U.S. at 74 n. 17, 116 S.Ct. at 1133 n. 17
(emphasis added). The "detailed remedial scheme" that exists in
the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, such as delineated procedures
limiting the remedies that federal courts can impose in the event
of a violation, is absent in the Food Stamp and Medicaid Acts.
The State defendants' reliance on Seminole Tribe is therefore
unavailing, and their motion to dismiss the complaint on Eleventh
Amendment grounds must be denied.
C. Private Rights of Action
The State defendants contend that plaintiffs have no private
right of action for violations of the Food Stamp Act, Medicaid
Act, and the State cash assistance programs under either
42 U.S.C. § 1983 or under the statutes themselves. This argument
As discussed in Reynolds I, in order to state a cause of
action under Section 1983, "a plaintiff must assert the violation
federal right, not merely a violation of federal law." Reynolds
I, 35 F. Supp.2d at 340 (citing Blessing v. Freestone,
520 U.S. 329, 340, 117 S.Ct. 1353, 1359, 137 L.Ed.2d 569 (1997)); see
also Rodriguez v. DeBuono, 162 F.3d 56, 60 (2d Cir. 1998). In
analyzing whether plaintiffs pled violations of federal rights
pursuant to Section 1983, this Court previously found that the
complaint stated viable causes of action for violations of
specific provisions of the Food Stamp Act, namely,
7 U.S.C. § 2020(e)(2)(B) (requiring consideration of application on same day
filed); 7 U.S.C. § 2020(e)(3) (requiring determination of
eligibility within 30 days from date of application);
7 U.S.C. § 2020(e)(9) (requiring provision of coupons to eligible households
within 7 days of application). See Reynolds I, 35 F. Supp.2d at
340-41 (citing cases); see also Roberson, 2000 WL 760300, at
*10-11 (holding violations of 7 U.S.C. § 2014(b), 2020(e)(2)(B)
and 2020(e)(9) and their implementing regulations enforceable
through Section 1983).
This Court also found that plaintiffs stated Section 1983
claims for violation of the Medicaid Act, specifically,
42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(8) (requiring reasonably prompt Medicaid assistance),
and its implementing regulations. See Reynolds I, 35 F. Supp.2d
at 341 (citing cases).*fn32 Finally, this Court held that
plaintiffs stated viable claims for violation of their Fourteenth
Amendment procedural due process rights pursuant to Section 1983
in regard to receipt of food stamps, Medicaid, and cash
assistance. See Reynolds I, 35 F. Supp.2d at 341 (citing cases);
see also Roberson, 2000 WL 760300, at *10 n. 13 (procedural due
process claim regarding receipt of food stamps enforceable under
Section 1983); Graus, 2 F. Supp.2d at 544-45 (procedural due
process claim regarding Medicaid enforceable under Section 1983).
Plaintiffs have therefore stated viable causes of action under
Section 1983. This makes it unnecessary to decide whether
plaintiffs have also stated claims directly under the Food Stamp
and Medicaid Acts pursuant to Cort v. Ash, 422 U.S. 66, 78, 95
S.Ct. 2080, 2088, 45 L.Ed.2d 26 (1975). See Reynolds I, 35
F. Supp.2d at 340 n. 5 (citing cases); see also Roberson, 2000
WL 760300, at *10 n. 12.
D. Exhaustion of Administrative Remedies
The State defendants argue that this action must be dismissed
because "the individual plaintiffs have not pursued or exhausted
their State administrative remedies or complained to the State
defendants about the alleged improprieties at the City
defendants' Job Centers." (State Defs.' Supp. Mem. at 29, 34)
This Court disagrees that exhaustion is required.
As discussed in the preceding section, the complaint asserts
viable claims against the State defendants under 42 U.S.C. § 1983
for violations of federal law. This Court has already observed
that exhaustion of administrative remedies is not required for
such claims under Section 1983. See Reynolds I, 35 F. Supp.2d at
341 n. 9 (citing Wilbur v. Harris, 53 F.3d 542, 544 (2d Cir.
1995); Jose P. v. Ambach, 669 F.2d 865 (2d Cir. 1982)); see
also Patsy v. Board of Regents, 457 U.S. 496, 516, 102 S.Ct.
2557, 2568, 73 L.Ed.2d 172 (1982) ("exhaustion of state
administrative remedies should not be required as a prerequisite
to bringing an action pursuant to § 1983"); DeSario v. Thomas,
139 F.3d 80, 85-86 (2d Cir. 1998), vacated and remanded on other
grounds by Slekis v. Thomas, 525 U.S. 1098, 119 S.Ct. 864, 142
L.Ed.2d 767 (1999) (same); Roberson, 2000 WL 760300, at *11
("[A]lthough both the Food Stamp Act and Medicaid statute require
States to provide for administrative hearings
when requested by recipients, the State defendants fail to point
out any indication of congressional intent to require exhaustion
of such remedies prior to brining a Section 1983 action.")
(citations omitted).*fn33 Accordingly, the State defendants'
motion to dismiss for failure to exhaust administrative remedies
C. Factual Predicate For Claims Against The State Defendants
The State defendants contend that plaintiffs have failed to
allege facts against them sufficient to state a claim.
Specifically, the State defendants argue that: (1) plaintiffs
have not alleged that a State policy, practice or custom deprived
them of a federal right; (2) plaintiffs failed to provide notice
of alleged deficiencies to the State by availing themselves of
the fair hearing process; (3) plaintiffs' allegations against the
State defendants are insufficiently pled.
1. State Policy, Practice, or Custom
The State defendants claim that plaintiffs' complaint fails to
allege that any violations of plaintiffs' federal rights occurred
pursuant to a State policy, custom or practice. The State
defendants also contend that plaintiffs' acknowledgment that the
City defendants, and not the State defendants, operate the income
support centers and job centers undermines their claims against
State defendants. (Compl. ¶ 17) Essentially, the State defendants
argue that they are not accountable for the City defendants'
Plaintiffs argue that the State defendants' have a duty to
oversee and supervise the City defendants to ensure compliance
with federal requirements. Plaintiffs offer three bases for this
duty to supervise. First, plaintiffs contend that the State
defendants' duty to oversee and supervise the City defendants
arises as a non-separable component of their duty to administer
the Food Stamp and Medicaid Acts in conformity with federal law.
Thus, to the extent that claims lie against the City defendants
for violations of specific provisions of the Food Stamp Act, the
Medicaid Act, and the due process clause, see supra, those same
claims would also lie against the State defendants for failing to
ensure the City defendants' compliance.
Second, plaintiffs claim that under the Food Stamp and Medicaid
Acts, the State defendants have an independent duty to oversee
and supervise. In that regard, plaintiffs rely on specific
provisions of the Food Stamp Act and its implementing
regulations, see 7 U.S.C. § 2012(n) (defining "state agency");
7 U.S.C. § 2020(d) (describing requirements for approval of state
plan); 7 C.F.R. § 275.5 (requiring State review of local agency
performance); 7 C.F.R. § 275.16, 275.18 (describing State
corrective action plans), and the Medicaid Act and its
implementing regulations, see 42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(1) (State
plan mandatory on local administering agencies); 42 C.F.R. § 435.903
(requiring State to monitor local administering agencies'
performance and take corrective action when necessary), and argue
that these provisions create privately enforceable rights.
Finally, plaintiffs argue that the State defendants have a duty
to provide the supervision and training necessary to prevent a
violation of plaintiffs' constitutional and statutory rights.
Plaintiffs contend that the State defendants have a policy,
custom, or practice of failing to train and supervise adequately
their employees or agents that is actionable under Section 1983.
The Court turns to plaintiffs' first theory of liability
against the State defendants, i.e., that implicit in the State
defendants' duty to administer the Food Stamp and Medicaid Acts
is an obligation to ensure local agency compliance with the
requirements of those statutes. Since the Court finds that theory
to be viable, it is unnecessary to reach plaintiffs' remaining
States participating in the Food Stamp and Medicaid programs
may choose one of two ways in which to administer benefits:
designate a single State agency to implement the programs, or
operate the programs on a decentralized basis using local
agencies. See 7 U.S.C. § 2012(n) (Food Stamp Act);
42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(1) (Medicaid Act). New York has chosen to
administer the Food Stamp and Medicaid Acts on a decentralized basis,
and HRA is one such local administering agency.
This statutory framework completely undercuts the State
defendants' contention that they are not responsible when HRA
fails to comply with requirements of the Food Stamp and Medicaid
Acts. Congress placed the duty to administer the Food Stamp and
Medicaid Acts on participating States, see 7 U.S.C. § 2020
(requirements for Food Stamp State plans); 42 U.S.C. § 1396a
(requirements for Medicaid State plans), and that duty is
non-delegable. In the context of decentralized administration of
welfare programs, such as the case here, the State defendants can
only fulfill their statutory obligations if they actively oversee
local administering agencies (such as the City defendants) and
ensure statutory compliance. Thus, the duty to comply with
federal statutory requirements is shared jointly by the State and
Other courts have reached the same conclusion. In Robertson v.
Jackson, 972 F.2d 529, the Fourth Circuit held that it was
proper to enjoin the State agency responsible for administration
of the Food Stamp Act to ensure that the local administering
agencies fully complied with the requirements of the Act.*fn34
In rejecting the State's argument that it was not responsible for
local agency compliance, the court cited to the Act's regulations
and Congressional history in determining that "[a]lthough the
state is permitted to delegate administrative responsibility for
the issuance of food stamps, `ultimate responsibility' for
compliance with federal requirements nevertheless remains at the
state level." Robertson, 972 F.2d at 533.
Food stamp regulations require the State to enter into a legal
agreement with the USDA in which the State undertakes to
administer the food stamp program in accordance with the statute,
monitor compliance with federal law, and ensure that action is
taken to correct deficiencies. See 7 C.F.R. § 272.2, 275.5,
275.16, 275.18, 275.19. Congressional history regarding the
definition of "state agency," which was amended to include "the
counterpart local agencies," see 7 U.S.C. § 2012(n), also
contemplates that responsibility for administering the program
remains at the state level:
In essence, state welfare agencies are responsible
for the day-to-day administration of the food stamp
program (under Federal Rules) and a substantial
portion of their administrative costs. In a number of
states, these responsibilities are passed down to
local welfare agencies because of the structure of
the state's welfare system. The state, however,
remains ultimately responsible and is the unit with
which the [USDA] deals.
Robertson, 972 F.2d at 534 (quoting H.R.Rep. No. 95-464, 95th
Cong., 1st Sess. 299 (1977), reprinted in 1977 U.S.C.C.A.N. 1971,
1704, 2235) (emphasis added).
This Court agrees with Robertson's holding that a State that
chooses to operate its food stamp program on a decentralized
basis "cannot thereby diminish the obligation to which the state,
as a state, has committed itself, namely, compliance with federal
requirements governing the provision of the food stamp benefits
that are funded by the federal government." Robertson, 972 F.2d
at 534; see also Woods v. United States, 724 F.2d 1444, 1447
(9th Cir. 1984) ("While the state may choose to delegate some
administrative responsibilities, the `ultimate responsibility for
operation of the [food stamp] plan remain[s] with the state.'")
(quoting California v. Block, 663 F.2d 855, 858 (9th Cir.
1981)). The same rationale applies to the State's obligations
under the Medicaid Act. See generally Hillburn v. Maher,
795 F.2d 252, 260 (2d Cir. 1986) ("[T]he reason for the requirement
that a state designate a `single State agency' to administer its
Medicaid program, was to avoid a lack of accountability for the
appropriate operation of the program.") (quoting
42 U.S.C. § 1396a(a)(5)).
The State defendants have a similar duty to oversee compliance
with the State cash assistance programs to ensure against
unconstitutional actions by the local agencies. See Moore v.
Perales, 692 F. Supp. 137, 143 (E.D.N.Y. 1988) ("Under AFDC, it
is the state agency that is ultimately responsible; it must
account to the federal government."); Beaudoin v. Toia,
45 N.Y.2d 343, 347-48, 408 N.Y.S.2d 417, 419, 380 N.E.2d 246 (1978)
("In the administration of public assistance funds, whether they
come from Federal, State or local sources, . . . the local
commissions act on behalf of and as agents for the State. . . .
Inasmuch as New York State has elected to participate in the
Federal aid to families with dependent children program . . .,
the State is required to comply with the applicable Federal
statute and regulations").
Accordingly, this Court determines that implicit in the State's
obligations to administer the Food Stamp Act, Medicaid Act, and
cash assistance programs is a duty to oversee the City
defendants' administration of the programs to ensure compliance
with federal law. The City defendants' failure to comply with the
specific requirements of the Food Stamp and Medicaid Act, or
their deprivation of plaintiffs' due process rights in connection
with the food stamps, Medicaid and cash assistance programs,
gives rise to corresponding Section 1983 claims against the State
2. Notice of Alleged Deficiencies Through the Fair Hearing
The State defendants contend that one primary way in which the
State implements the Food Stamp and Medicaid Acts is by providing
applicants and recipients with the right to administrative fair
hearings to redress their grievances with local agency actions.
The State defendants argue that the majority of plaintiffs have
failed to avail themselves of the fair hearing process, and
therefore cannot allege that the State defendants failed to