Collester, Mintz and Lynch.
In these two cases, consolidated on appeal, the respective plaintiffs appeal from fair hearing decisions of the Division of Public Welfare (Division), Department of Institutions and Agencies. Their sole contention is that N.J.S.A. 44:7-32 is unconstitutional as applied to Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) recipients.
Each plaintiff was a recipient of assistance under the ADC program. Their assistance grants were terminated by the Union County Welfare Board (Board) after each had
been convicted of obtaining money from the Board by false statements.
In October 1966 plaintiff, Mrs. Marlin, was convicted on a fraud charge and placed on probation for three years. The Board denied assistance for herself and her children, relying upon N.J.S.A. 44:7-32. That statute provides that any person obtaining welfare assistance from a county welfare board by fraudulent means shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and punished accordingly, and "his application [for assistance] may be denied or his grant withdrawn, and future grants denied at the discretion of the board." The Board's action was affirmed by the Division by a decision rendered on July 20, 1970 insofar as it related to the exclusion of plaintiff individually from the grant. She was employed, according to her testimony, during most of the period from the time her ADC grant was discontinued until the end of 1968. She reapplied and was granted assistance for her children only in December 1968.
On August 12, 1970 plaintiff filed her notice of appeal from the July 20, 1970 decision. Thereafter further proceedings ensued, resulting in a reinstatement of Mrs. Marlin's grant effective April 1, 1971.
Upon a rehearing before the Division on April 13, 1971 her counsel's only claim was that she was entitled to an assistance grant retroactive to July 20, 1970, the date of the fair hearing decision. The Division agreed and by its decision dated May 11, 1971 directed the Board to issue plaintiff an additional payment in the amount of any budgetary deficits that were not met through assistance by another program during the period August 1, 1970 to April 1, 1971.
Since the filing of this appeal Mrs. Marlin has been granted all the relief thereafter sought, namely, reinstatement as a recipient for welfare assistance and retroactive payment as requested. Hence, it may be argued that her
appeal is moot and should be dismissed. Humble Oil & Refining Co. v. Wojtycha , 48 N.J. 562 (1967); Mountain Lakes Bd. of Education v. Maas , 56 N.J. Super. 245 (App. Div. 1959), aff'd o.b. 31 N.J. 537 (1960), cert. den. 363 U.S. 843, 80 S. Ct. 1613, 4 L. Ed. 2d 1727 (1960) However, it is also conceivable that plaintiff did not intend to abandon her claim as asserted in her notice of appeal. Her basic argument is that she should not have been excluded from the grant for any period of time following her conviction for fraud in October 1966. This argument is premised upon the alleged unconstitutionality of N.J.S.A. 44:7-32. In light of all the stated circumstances we proceed to consider plaintiff's contention of constitutional infirmity. She alleges: (1) the application of N.J.S.A. 44:7-32 to ADC recipients is contrary to the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C.A. § 301 et seq.); (2) the application of N.J.S.A. 44:7-32 to ADC recipients is violative of the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and (3) N.J.S.A. 44:7-32 violates the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it arbitrarily denied plaintiff and her children ADC assistance.
We hold that the provision of the Social Security Act governing aid for dependent children permits a state to deny personal benefits to an individual convicted of welfare fraud. The ADC program is federally funded in part, and is established pursuant to 42 U.S.C.A. § 602. If an individual refuses without good cause to accept employment, his needs may be disregarded in the grant to the family but the child's needs will be met unless it is the child who has so refused. 42 U.S.C.A. § 602(a)(19). Clearly, the ...