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Robinson v. Burlington County Board of Social Services

September 18, 2008

FRANK ROBINSON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BURLINGTON COUNTY BOARD OF SOCIAL SERVICES, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hillman, District Judge

OPINION

Pro se plaintiff Frank Robinson filed a complaint alleging violations of Executive Order 11246, Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Age Discrimination Act, and the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination, N.J.S.A. 10:5-1. Robinson also alleges that defendants violated his Fifth and Fourteenth Amendment rights by terminating his benefits without due process.

Before the Court is defendants' motion to dismiss Robinson's complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. For reasons explained below, defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.*fn1

I. JURISDICTION

We exercise subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's federal claims pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331. We exercise supplemental jurisdiction over plaintiff's related state law claim pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.

II. BACKGROUND

Robinson is a 62 year old unemployed, homeless man who receives supplemental social security income ("SSI"). Robinson also had received emergency assistance ("EA") welfare funds under the Work First New Jersey ("WFNJ") program*fn2 while living in an Executive Inn motel in New Jersey. EA funds have a lifetime limit of twelve months. After receiving EA funds for twelve months, on April 2, 2007, Robinson was notified by the Burlington County Board of Social Services ("BCBSS") that his EA funds were terminated. Included with the notification of termination was a form to apply for an extension of emergency assistance through the Long Term Support ("LTS") program. Under the LTS program, extended emergency assistance is available in cases of extreme hardship for individuals who are considered "unemployable" due to chronic long term impairment.

Robinson filled out the application for LTS funds and stated that he believed he was eligible because he met the criteria of being age 60 or older, having received WFNJ/General Assistance or WFNJ/TANF,*fn3 and having a current physical or mental health status that could make it impossible for him to get or keep a job. Robinson's LTS application was approved on or about April 10, 2007, and his housing arrangements at the Executive Inn motel were continued until April 30, 2007.

On April 30, 2007, Robinson went to the BCBSS and met with defendant Yvonne Williams. He told Ms. Williams that he had been displaced from the Executive Inn on April 29, 2007. Ms. Williams advised him that a room had become available at Tulloch's Rooming House in Burlington City, New Jersey and that he should contact Ed Tulloch for details. Robinson alleges that he contacted Mr. Tulloch who told him that he might not be able to afford the room based on Robinson's income.

On May 7, 2007, the BCBSS received Robinson's request for a fair hearing pursuant to N.J.A.C. 10:90-9.3.*fn4 On May 10, 2007, Robinson spoke with a social worker who told him he needed to call Tulloch's Rooming House. Robinson states that he told the social worker that he had called Mr. Tulloch but was told he may not be able to afford a room. Robinson alleges that BCBSS did not give him a fair hearing.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Standard for Motion to Dismiss Under Rule 12(b)(6)

When considering a motion to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), a court must accept all well-pleaded allegations in the complaint as true and view them in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Evancho v. Fisher, 423 F.3d 347, 351 (3d Cir. 2005). It is well settled that a pleading is sufficient if it contains "a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed. R. Civ. P. 8(a)(2). Under the liberal federal pleading rules, it is not necessary to plead evidence, and it is not necessary to plead all the facts that serve as a basis for the claim. Bogosian v. Gulf Oil Corp., 562 F.2d 434, 446 (3d Cir. 1977). However, "[a]lthough the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure do not require a claimant to set forth an intricately detailed description of the asserted basis for relief, they do require that the pleadings give defendant fair notice of what the plaintiff's claim is and the grounds upon which it rests." Baldwin County Welcome Ctr. v. Brown, 466 U.S. 147, 149-50 n.3 (1984) (quotation and citation omitted).

A district court, in weighing a motion to dismiss, asks "'not whether a plaintiff will ultimately prevail but whether the claimant is entitled to offer evidence to support the claim.'" Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 1969 n.8 (2007) (quoting Scheuer v. Rhoades, 416 U.S. 232, 236 (1974)); see also Phillips v. County of Allegheny, 515 F.3d 224, 234 (3d Cir. 2008) (stating that the "Supreme Court's Twombly formulation of the pleading standard can be summed up thus:'stating... a claim requires a complaint with enough factual matter (taken as true) to suggest' the required element. This'does not impose a probability requirement at the pleading stage,' but instead'simply calls for enough facts to raise a reasonable expectation that discovery will reveal evidence of' the necessary element"). A court need not credit either "bald assertions" or "legal conclusions" in a complaint when deciding a motion to dismiss. In re Burlington Coat Factory Sec. Litig., 114 F.3d 1410, 1429-30 (3d Cir. 1997). The defendant bears the burden of showing that no claim has been presented. Hedges v. U.S., 404 F.3d 744, 750 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Kehr Packages, Inc. v. Fidelcor, Inc., 926 F.2d 1406, 1409 (3d Cir. 1991)).

Finally, since plaintiff is proceeding pro se, a more lenient standard is applied in determining whether the complaint states a claim that would entitle him to relief. See Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97, 107 (1976) (recognizing that "a pro se complaint, however inartfully pleaded, must be held to less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers and can only be dismissed for failure to state a claim if it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of ...


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