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CHAMBERS v. KLEIN

August 25, 1976

Jan CHAMBERS, on behalf of herself and her minor children, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
Ann KLEIN, Commissioner, Department of Institutions and Agencies, State of New Jersey, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: LACEY

 This class action has been brought to challenge 42 C.F.R. § 232.10 promulgated by the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) and § 210, Appendix D, Public Assistance Manual (PAM) established by the Department of Institutions and Agencies of the State of New Jersey (I & A), requiring applicants for or recipients of federal Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC), 42 U.S.C. §§ 601-610, to obtain and supply social security numbers for all family members as a condition of eligibility for assistance. Plaintiffs Jan Chambers (Chambers) and Sharon Epps (Epps), who were formerly recipients of AFDC benefits, sue on behalf of themselves, their minor children and all others similarly situated pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23. Defendants herein are the Commissioner of I & A; the Director of the Division of Public Welfare of I & A; the Director of the Essex County Welfare Board; the Director of the Monmouth County Welfare Board; and the Secretary of HEW.

 This action has been brought under the Civil Rights Act of 1871, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 1983; directly under certain amendments to the federal Constitution; and pursuant to the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201. It is stated that the court has subject matter jurisdiction over the suit pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331, 1343 (3) and (4), and 1361.

 The facts relating to this action are set forth in the Verified Complaint, as amended, and Agreed Stipulations of Fact filed herein by the parties.

 Sometime in early March 1976, Chambers entered East Orange General Hospital. She did not notify the Essex County Welfare Board that she was going to enter the hospital. During her stay in the hospital, Chambers' residence was visited by a caseworker as part of a regularly scheduled redetermination of eligibility for AFDC benefits. Apparently, the caseworker was not informed that Chambers had entered the hospital because, upon her return to her residence, she found a written Notice of Intention to Suspend or Terminate Assistance, dated March 5, 1976 (Notice).

 The Notice indicated that her AFDC grant would be terminated on April 1, 1976 because of her failure to contact the Essex County Welfare Board as requested in a letter sent to her on March 3, 1976. Since the Essex County Welfare Board was not informed that Chambers was in the hospital, the letter apparently requested that she contact the Essex County Welfare Board because she could not be located. In any event, the Notice stated the following:

 
You have the right to request a fair hearing before a representative of the New Jersey Department of Institutions and Agencies. If you should request a fair hearing within fifteen (15) days of the mailing date of this notice of termination of your assistance as stated above, assistance will be continued until the fair hearing unless you notify the county welfare board that you do not desire continued assistance.
 
At the hearing a determination will be made whether or not you will be entitled to continue receiving assistance until a written fair hearing decision is issued. If you are found so entitled, and choose to continue receiving assistance and lose your appeal, the overpayment in assistance may be recovered from any assistance you remain eligible to receive or from future assistance payments.

 Chambers, however, did not seek a fair hearing and on March 31, 1976 her AFDC benefits were terminated. It is noted that prior to March 31, 1976, Chambers contacted and orally explained her absence to the Essex County Welfare Board. Notwithstanding, in view of her failure to halt the termination process through a request for a fair hearing, all AFDC assistance to Chambers and her children ceased on that date.

 In early April 1976, a caseworker visited Chambers to assist her in reapplying for AFDC benefits. During the visit she was informed that she would have to obtain and supply to the Essex County Welfare Board social security numbers for her three children before AFDC assistance would be restored. Although she provided the Essex County Welfare Board with her social security number, she refused to obtain social security numbers for her children.

 On April 14, 1976, Chambers requested a fair hearing as to regulations requiring social security numbers for her children. Chambers was given that hearing on May 4, 1976, at which time she was represented by counsel and challenged the validity of the regulations requiring her to supply social security numbers for her children. At the hearing she contended that she was improperly notified of the termination of AFDC benefits because the Notice she had received indicated that the assistance was being terminated because she could not be located, and not because she had failed to supply the Essex County Welfare Board with the aforementioned social security numbers. She also argued that the regulations requiring the social security numbers were invalid in that they were not authorized by the federal statute which they were designed to implement and were in violation of the constitutional right to privacy of her children.

 Prior to March 19, 1976, Epps met with her caseworker for a regular redetermination of her eligibility for AFDC benefits. When asked to obtain and supply social security numbers for her children, Epps refused. On March 19, 1976, she was notified in writing that her AFDC assistance would be terminated due to her failure to supply social security numbers for her children to the Monmouth County Welfare Board.

 A fair hearing on Epps' case was held on April 15, 1976. At the hearing she challenged the validity of the regulation requiring social security numbers for her children by arguing that the Monmouth County Welfare Board had sufficient means of identifying the children without the social security numbers; that the PAM did not state the reasons for the regulation, nor were the employees of the Monmouth County Welfare Board able to explain the reasons; and that the regulation violated the constitutional right of privacy of her children. A decision was issued on June 18, 1976 which upheld the regulation requiring the social security numbers of her children. The decision determined that Epps was ineligible for AFDC benefits but that her children should continue to receive such assistance. Furthermore, as a result of the aforementioned decision, Epps cannot obtain Medicaid. It is urged that Medicaid benefits are needed because she has a physical problem which must be treated on a regular basis. The nature of her physical condition is such that regular treatment is required for her survival.

 On July 13, 1976, Epps was advised that she was

 
no longer eligible to continue to receive payments under the program of Aid to Families with Dependent Children because you have failed to apply for Social Security numbers for your children. As per fair hearing decision, you must be removed from the grant, however, your net income must be applied to the children's needs and this makes you financially ineligible.

 Epps is employed by Monmouth County and has a gross bi-monthly income of $229. Thus, under the above notification it appears that AFDC benefits to Epps are being terminated because of her failure to obtain social security numbers for her children, and that AFDC benefits to her children are being terminated because of her employment.

 On July 16 and 20, 1976, Epps requested another fair hearing with respect to July 13, 1976 notification, which has not yet been held. It should be noted that she does not intend to challenge the requirement of social security numbers for her children at the next hearing.

 The Verified Complaint, as amended, alleges that 45 C.F.R. § 232.10 imposes an additional eligibility requirement for AFDC assistance because the federal regulation is inconsistent with 42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(25); that § 210, Appendix D, PAM, as amended by the Circular Letter No. 75-8-12, also imposes an additional eligibility requirement for AFDC assistance and violates the Supremacy Clause of the federal Constitution, because the state regulation is inconsistent with 42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(25); that 45 C.F.R. § 232.10 and § 210, Appendix D, PAM, as promulgated and enforced, violate plaintiffs' constitutional right to privacy as guaranteed by the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Ninth Amendments to the federal Constitution; that 45 C.F.R.§ 232.10 and § 210, Appendix D, PAM, violate Section 7(a)(1) of the Privacy Act of 1974, 5 U.S.C. § 552a note; that 45 C.F.R. § 232.10 and § 210, Appendix D, PAM, violate the equal protection clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the federal Constitution; that 45 C.F.R. § 232.10 and § 210, Appendix D, PAM, violate plaintiffs' right to substantive due process guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the federal Constitution; that the termination of Chambers' AFDC benefits without proper notice violated her right to procedural due process as guaranteed by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the federal Constitution; and that the termination of Chambers' AFDC assistance without affording her an opportunity for a preliminary hearing with officials of the County Welfare Board violated the mandate of the New Jersey Administrative Code, N.J.A.C. 10:81-24.12.

 Plaintiffs request class action certification; interim and permanent injunctive relief; *fn1" a declaratory judgment; and a writ of mandamus compelling the Secretary of HEW to refuse to enforce 45 C.F.R. § 232.10. On July 2, 1976 this court denied plaintiffs' application for a temporary restraining order. Plaintiffs on August 12, 1976, renewed their request for a temporary restraining order, which was denied by the Honorable John F. Gerry. This matter is now before the court on plaintiffs' application for a preliminary injunction after a hearing held on July 28, 1976; their motion for class certification; *fn2" and the motion by the State defendants for an order dismissing the complaint, or for summary judgment, due to lack of subject matter jurisdiction, or, in the alternative, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted with respect to the Seventh and Eighth Causes of Action in the complaint.

 DISCUSSION

 AFDC was enacted pursuant to the Social Security Act of 1935, which created three types of programs of financial assistance, namely, old age assistance, aid to the blind, and aid to dependent children. The AFDC program is intended to provide federal financial assistance to the States in their efforts to supply welfare relief for needy children and their relatives. 42 U.S.C. § 601. In that regard, it is financed by the federal government through the expenditure of matching funds to states which decide to participate in the program. See, e.g., Hagans v. Van Buren, 536 F.2d 525 (2d Cir. 1976). The federal government allocates funds to states whose programs of assistance have been approved by the Secretary of HEW, 42 U.S.C. § 601; King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309, 316-17, 88 S. Ct. 2128, 20 L. Ed. 2d 1118 (1968), and meet the requirements of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 602(a); 45 C.F.R. § 201.2.

 In order to obtain AFDC assistance, 42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(25) requires that a state program provide

 
(A) that, as a condition of eligibility under the plan, each applicant for or recipient of aid shall furnish to the State agency his social security number . . . and (B) that such state agency shall utilize such account numbers, in addition to any other means of identification it may determine to employ in the administration of such plan . . . .

 Pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1302, the Secretary of HEW adopted the following regulation:

 
The State plan must provide that:
 
(a) As a condition of eligibility, each applicant for or recipient of aid will be required:
 
(1) To furnish to the State or local agency a social security account number, hereinafter referred to as the SSN (or numbers, if ...

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