FSSA employees face individual claims for day care registration revocation

August 31, 2016

Two employees of the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration will face individual-capacity claims brought by a religious day care whose registration was revoked without providing for some type of hearing, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals held Tuesday.

A religious organization may obtain a license or registration through the Bureau of Child Care, which is under the Indiana Family and Social Services Administration. State law provides a procedure for administratively appealing the revocation of a license; the law does not give providers an opportunity to challenge the bureau’s decision to revoke a certificate of registration.

Rebirth Christian Academy Daycare obtained a certificate of registration in 2009. An unannounced inspection in 2012 led to the government finding what it believed were several infractions and violations. The bureau sent notice to Rebirth giving it 10 days to correct the issues. Rebirth didn’t think it had committed any violations, so it did nothing. Melanie Brizzi, head of the bureau, then sent a letter to the day care stating the certificate of registration would be terminated in two weeks.

In both instances, there was no administrative process for Rebirth to challenge the violations or revocation.

The day care then sued, claiming its right to due process under the 14th Amendment was violated. The organization named Brizzi and Michael Gargano, the secretary of FSSA, as defendants in both their official and individual capacities. The federal judge dismissed the individual capacity claims and the court ruled in favor of Rebirth, entering a permanent injunction ordering FSSA to provide registered child care ministries with the same administrative appeal process as licensed child care centers for enforcement actions.

At issue in Rebirth Christian Academy Daycare Inc. v. Melanie Brizzi and Michael Gargano, 15-2220, is the dismissal of the individual-capacity claims against Brizzi and Gargano. The 7th Circuit reversed and reinstated the claims. Caselaw has clearly established that Rebirth had a property interest in its registration as a child care ministry, Judge Ilana Rovner wrote. The judges also held the manner in which the defendants deprived Rebirth of its property interest violated clearly established law. The “root requirement” of due process is that someone is given the opportunity for a hearing before he is deprived of any significant property interest.

“We conclude that Rebirth’s complaint plausibly alleges that Brizzi and Gargano were personally involved in depriving Rebirth of an opportunity for a pre-deprivation hearing, and thus the complaint satisfies the requirements of notice pleading,” Rovner wrote.

The appeals court did not decide the type of pre-deprivation hearing that Rebirth was entitled to or that it shall recover damages. The matter is remanded for further proceedings.



Recent Articles by Jennifer Nelson