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SANDRA GARDEBRING v. KATHRYN JENKINS

decided: April 19, 1988.

SANDRA GARDEBRING, COMMISSIONER OF THE MINNESOTA DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES, PETITIONER
v.
KATHRYN JENKINS



ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT.

Stevens J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C.j., and White, Blackmun, and Scalia, JJ., joined. O'connor, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which Brennan, J., joined, and in which Marshall, J., joined as to the last paragraph, post, p. 432. Kennedy, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Author: Stevens

[ 485 U.S. Page 417]

 JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court.

In 1981 Congress amended the statute authorizing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program to provide that a family receiving nonrecurring lump-sum income is ineligible for benefits for the number of months that the income would satisfy the family's standard of need. Section 2304 of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, 95 Stat. 845, as amended,*fn1 42 U. S. C. § 602(a)(17) (1982 ed. and Supp. III); see generally Lukhard v. Reed, 481 U.S. 368, 371-373 (1987) (plurality opinion); see also id., at 384-386 (Powell, J., dissenting).*fn2 In this case the United

[ 485 U.S. Page 418]

     States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that the Minnesota Department of Human Services (the Department) could not enforce that amendment against respondent, and the class she represents, because it had not given them the notice required by a regulation promulgated by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (the Secretary), 45 CFR § 206.10(a)(2)(i) (1987). We granted certiorari to review the Court of Appeals' interpretation of the Secretary's regulation as well as its remedial decision in favor of an injunction barring the Department from recouping payments made to respondent during her period of ineligibility. Because we conclude that the regulation was not violated, we do not reach the remedy question.

I

On October 31, 1983, respondent's husband received a retroactive Social Security disability payment of $5,752. Respondent used the entire lump sum to pay a $3,863.75 arrearage on the family's home mortgage, an overdue car repair bill of $1,366, and a legal fee of $150, and the remainder to purchase clothing for her children and on other bills. Within two days, the entire sum had been expended.*fn3

On November 2, 1983, respondent reported the receipt (and the expenditure) of the Social Security payment to her caseworker and was advised that under the 1981 amendment her family would be ineligible for benefits for the next several months.*fn4 She immediately filed an administrative appeal

[ 485 U.S. Page 419]

     and her family continued to receive benefits while the appeal was pending. See 45 CFR § 205.10(a)(6)(i) (1987). The Appeals Referee decided that the benefits should not be terminated because the Jenkinses had not received any advance notice of the new lump-sum rule, App. 69-73, but the Department's Deputy Commissioner reversed. Id., at 73-76. While expressing disagreement with the policy implemented by the 1981 amendment, he concluded that the federal statute must be enforced even though the lack of advance notice had produced a "harsh result."*fn5

When the administrative review proceedings terminated in August, the Jenkins family was again eligible for benefits. The Department's decision, however, meant that benefits had been improperly paid for the period between October 1983 and May 1984. Accordingly, as required by the federal statute, see 42 U. S. C. § 602(a)(22) (1982 ed. and Supp. III); see also 45 CFR § 233.20(a)(13) (1987), in due course the Department

[ 485 U.S. Page 420]

     ordered recoupment of the wrongfully paid benefits by deducting 1% from each future AFDC monthly payment, in accordance with state law, see Minn. Stat. § 256.73, subd. 6 (1986).

Shortly after the conclusion of the state administrative proceedings, respondent intervened in an action already pending in Federal District Court challenging the Department's lump-sum policy on various grounds.*fn6 In her complaint in intervention, App. 14, 20, respondent added an allegation that the Department's implementation of the new lump-sum rule without adequate notice to AFDC applicants and recipients violated the Secretary's regulation. The District Court certified

[ 485 U.S. Page 421]

     a class*fn7 and entered summary judgment in its favor on the notice issue. Slaughter v. Levine, 598 F. Supp. 1035, 1049-1052 (Minn. 1984).

The District Court awarded two forms of relief. First, it required the Department to prepare a written notice that adequately explained the lump-sum policy and to distribute it to all current AFDC recipients and all future applicants. Id., at 1055. Second, it ordered the Department to notify all class members who had been injured by the Department's violation that they might apply for corrective payments from their local welfare agencies. Ibid. The court concluded that the Eleventh Amendment prevented it from ordering any repayment of benefits that had been improperly denied, ibid., or from enjoining the Department from recouping overpayments to families like the Jenkinses. Slaughter v. Levine, 621 F. Supp. 509, 513-514 (Minn. 1985). For the purposes of relief, the District Court determined that members of the class who did not expend any portion of their lump-sum payments before they received notice of the current lump-sum policy had not been injured by the Department's violation of the federal notice regulation. Slaughter v. Levine, 598 F. Supp., at 1055.*fn8

[ 485 U.S. Page 422]

     A divided panel of the Court of Appeals affirmed the District Court's judgment insofar as it found a violation of the notice regulation and denied monetary relief to members of the class. Slaughter v. Levine, 801 F.2d 288 (CA8 1986) (case below). It concluded, however, that the District Court should have enjoined the Department from recouping any amounts that were treated as "overpayments" under the post-1981 policy if they would have been proper under the pre-1981 lump-sum rule. In explaining its basic holding, the Court of Appeals pointed out that advance notice to lump-sum recipients was necessary to achieve the purposes of the 1981 amendment,*fn9 and that to impose the new rule on a family that assumed that the old rule was still in effect "would be truly Kafkaesque."*fn10 The dissenting judge did not believe

[ 485 U.S. Page 423]

     that either the statute or the notice regulation conditioned the implementation of the new rule on advance notice to the small percentage of AFDC beneficiaries affected by it. He construed the regulation as simply requiring "the state to publicize generally in written form, and orally as appropriate, the AFDC program and its availability." Id., at 303 (Fagg, J., dissenting). Because of the significance of the Court of Appeals' holding for States' administration of welfare laws, we granted certiorari, 482 U.S. 926 (1987).

II

The Secretary's notice regulation, which was first adopted in 1971 and later amended in 1978 and 1979, now provides:

"Applicants shall be informed about the eligibility requirements and their rights and obligations under the program. Under this requirement individuals are given information in written form, and orally as appropriate, about coverage, conditions of eligibility, scope of the program, and related services available, and the rights and responsibilities of applicants for and recipients of assistance. Specifically developed bulletins or pamphlets explaining the rules regarding ...


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