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Social-services recipients entitled to injunctive relief

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The Family and Social Services Administration’s adverse action notices pertaining to public benefits programs that don’t name specific missing eligibility documents don’t comport with the requirement of procedural due process, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana sued the FSSA on behalf of people who have applied for or receive public benefits to enjoin the state agency from issuing adverse action notices regarding Medicaid, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If an applicant was denied, he would receive a generic notice alleging failure to cooperate but the notice didn’t specify what verification document was missing. The trial court certified specific classes of people who could sue.

Marion Superior Court found FSSA procedures as a whole satisfied procedural due process requirements and FSSA was entitled to summary judgment on that issue. It also issued a declaratory judgment and injunction against FSSA because the agency had, in violation of federal law governing SNAP, utilized a “failure to cooperate” standard as opposed to a “refusal to cooperate” standard. The trial court also ruled that FSSA had violated class member Sheila Perdue’s rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act when FSSA automatically scheduled her for a phone interview with a caseworker despite her known hearing impairment and denied her benefits for “failure to cooperate.”
 
In Sheila Perdue, et al. v. Anne W. Murphy, et al., No. 49A02-1003-PL-250, the appellate court reversed the lower court’s ruling that the adverse action procedures as a whole satisfied procedural due process rights. FSSA’s procedures place a great burden upon the disadvantaged person to show on appeal that each and every document was timely provided, wrote Judge L. Mark Bailey. He also noted the appellate court couldn’t find that making the FSSA specify the reason for its denial would place a great burden on the agency.

“We are persuaded by the Recipients’ argument that they may not effectively exercise a right to be heard on appeal absent sufficient information to adequately prepare for and pursue the appeal. Mindful that an individual receiving an FSSA adverse action notice likely has a physical, mental, or economic disadvantage (or combination thereof), it is unreasonable to expect that the recipient can act to protect his or her interests without specific information,” wrote the judge.

In addition to reversing summary judgment for FSSA on this issue, the judges also upheld the lower court’s grant of declaratory judgment and injunctive relief regarding SNAP and the finding that Perdue’s rights were violated. The agency didn’t demonstrate that the injunction was overbroad or a genuine issue of material fact existed precluding summary judgment. In addition, FSSA even conceded at oral argument that it wasn’t demonstrably harmed by the injunctive orders that amounted to orders to follow existing law, wrote the judge.

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  • GOP and that Man Mitch at it again
    This is a typical example of how Mitch in his "reform" minded mode to "fix" government is nothing but a ruse to deny benefits for those in need. You can't convince anyone that the vagueness of the "form" letter was not a GOP way of denying benefits based upon their "concieved" notion of complying with the law. They knew that a person would have no idea what was missing, and if they tried to find out, they would get put on hold for ever trying to find someone who would not have any answers.

    Again the GOP provides the worse government that special interests can buy. Time to get rid of the pary of NO and their mean spirited self center, selfish agenda.

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  1. This sure is not what most who value good governance consider the Rule of Law to entail: "In a letter dated March 2, which Brizzi forwarded to IBJ, the commission dismissed the grievance “on grounds that there is not reasonable cause to believe that you are guilty of misconduct.”" Yet two month later reasonable cause does exist? (Or is the commission forging ahead, the need for reasonable belief be damned? -- A seeming violation of the Rules of Profession Ethics on the part of the commission) Could the rule of law theory cause one to believe that an explanation is in order? Could it be that Hoosier attorneys live under Imperial Law (which is also a t-word that rhymes with infamy) in which the Platonic guardians can do no wrong and never owe the plebeian class any explanation for their powerful actions. (Might makes it right?) Could this be a case of politics directing the commission, as celebrated IU Mauer Professor (the late) Patrick Baude warned was happening 20 years ago in his controversial (whisteblowing) ethics lecture on a quite similar topic: http://www.repository.law.indiana.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1498&context=ilj

  2. I have a case presently pending cert review before the SCOTUS that reveals just how Indiana regulates the bar. I have been denied licensure for life for holding the wrong views and questioning the grand inquisitors as to their duties as to state and federal constitutional due process. True story: https://www.scribd.com/doc/299040839/2016Petitionforcert-to-SCOTUS Shorter, Amici brief serving to frame issue as misuse of govt licensure: https://www.scribd.com/doc/312841269/Thomas-More-Society-Amicus-Brown-v-Ind-Bd-of-Law-Examiners

  3. Here's an idea...how about we MORE heavily regulate the law schools to reduce the surplus of graduates, driving starting salaries up for those new grads, so that we can all pay our insane amount of student loans off in a reasonable amount of time and then be able to afford to do pro bono & low-fee work? I've got friends in other industries, radiology for example, and their schools accept a very limited number of students so there will never be a glut of new grads and everyone's pay stays high. For example, my radiologist friend's school accepted just six new students per year.

  4. I totally agree with John Smith.

  5. An idea that would harm the public good which is protected by licensing. Might as well abolish doctor and health care professions licensing too. Ridiculous. Unrealistic. Would open the floodgates of mischief and abuse. Even veteranarians are licensed. How has deregulation served the public good in banking, for example? Enough ideology already!

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