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Leiting-Hall v. Phillips

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

April 1, 2016

TAMI LEITING-HALL and ASHLEY DANKLEFF, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
v.
COURTNEY PHILLIPS, as Chief Executive Officer of the Nebraska Health and Human Services, and DOUGLAS WEINBERG, as Director of the Division of Children and Family Services, Defendants.

TAMI LEITING-HALL and ASHLEY DANKLEFF, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, PLAINTIFFS. Molly M. McCleery James A. Goddard Attorneys for Plaintiffs Marc Cohan Mary R. Mannix National Center for Law and Economic Justice Attorneys for Plaintiffs

COURTNEY PHILLIPS, as Chief Executive Officer of the Nebraska Department of Heal th and Human Services, and DOUGLAS WEINBERG, as Director of the Division of Children and Family Services, DEFENDANTS. DOUGLAS J. PETERSON Attorney General of Nebraska David A. Lopez, Jessica M. Forch Assistant Attorneys General Attorneys for Defendants

AGREEMENT TO SETTLE CLAIMS FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COSTS

John M. Gerrard United States District Judge

This AGREEMENT TO SETTLE CLAIMS FOR ATTORNEY'S FEES AND COSTS (hereinafter the "Fees Settlement Agreement") is made between Tami Leiting-Hall and Ashley Dankleff (individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated) (collectively the "Plaintiffs") and Courtney Phillips and Douglas Weinberg (collectively the "Defendants").

In order to avoid the uncertainties of further litigation on the issue of attorney's fees and costs, it is hereby stipulated and agreed as follows:

1. WHEREAS, Plaintiffs brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendants failed to provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ("SNAP") benefits within the time frames mandated by federal law to eligible households who file initial or renewal applications because of policies and practices that a) unlawfully deny applicants the opportunity to comply with application procedures and thereby result in Defendants denying their applications; and b) otherwise unlawfully delay processing resulting in eligibility decisions beyond federally-mandated time limits.

2. WHEREAS, Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint (Filing 19) sought declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendants on behalf of themselves and members of a certified class to require Defendants to (1) ensure that SNAP applicants have the right to apply, including the right to apply for recertification, and to complete the application process in time to receive SNAP benefits within the federally mandated time frames; and (2) determine such households' eligibility within the mandated time frames and provide SNAP benefits within the mandated time frames to those eligible. A class has been certified in this action.

3. WHEREAS, Defendants filed an Answer (Filing 26) to Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint disputing Plaintiffs' allegations, raising various affirmative defenses, and contesting Plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief.

4. WHEREAS, in the interest of avoiding the costs, burdens, and uncertainty of potential litigation, the parties have agreed to resolve all issues presented in this litigation without further proceedings and without Defendants admitting any fault or liability. To that end, the parties executed the "Stipulation and Order of Settlement" (attached hereto as Exhibit A) and jointly submitted said Stipulation and Order of Settlement to the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska for approval, pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 23(e). See Filing 105. A hearing to determine whether the Stipulation and Order of Settlement is fair and reasonable has been scheduled for April 1, 2016. Id.

5. WHEREAS, pursuant to their agreement at Paragraph 23 of the Stipulation and Order of Settlement, the parties stipulate that Plaintiffs are entitled to recover their attorney's fees and costs under 42 U.S.C. § 1988.

6. WHEREAS, the parties wish to conclude, settle, and resolve the issue of the attorney's fees and costs without further litigation.

7. The Defendants will pay to Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law in the Public interest the lump sum of $230, 000.00 (two hundred thirty thousand dollars), in full and complete settlement of any and all claims for attorney's fees, associated costs, and expenses in the above-captioned lawsuit up to the date the Stipulation and Order of Settlement is so ordered. Payment of the entire amount will be made by the State of Nebraska upon approval and appropriation by the Nebraska Legislature during the 2016 legislative session.

8. In addition to appropriation by the Nebraska Legislature, final payment of the settlement amount is contingent upon the Court's approval and entry of the Stipulation and Order of Settlement attached hereto as Exhibit A.

9. In consideration of this Fees Settlement Agreement, the Plaintiffs agree to release Defendants from any and all claims for attorney's fees, associated costs, and expenses in the above-captioned lawsuit up to the date the Stipulation and Order of Settlement is so ordered.

10. Within 7 (seven) days of the approval of the appropriation by the Nebraska Legislature of the settlement amount, the parties agree to jointly submit a Notice to the Court, the body of which Notice shall state, in its entirety: "The parties have reached a full settlement on the issue of attorney's fees, associated costs, and expenses in the above-captioned lawsuit and no such application for such fees or costs is forthcoming for attorney's fees and costs up to the date the Stipulation and Order of Settlement is so ordered."

11. Consistent with the terms of the attached Stipulation and Order of Settlement, this Fees Settlement Agreement does not constitute an admission by the Defendants of any violation of any regulation, ordinance, administrative procedure, or any federal, state or local law, common law, the Nebraska State Constitution, or the United States Constitution, liability for which is expressly denied.

12. The undersigned counsel have full authority to execute this Fees Settlement Agreement on behalf of the parties and bind the parties fully to all terms and conditions.

SO ORDERED

Exhibit 1

STIPULATION AND ORDER OF SETTLEMENT

Plaintiffs brought this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 alleging that Defendants COURTNEY PHILLIPS, as Chief Executive Officer of the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (or "DHHS"), and DOUGLAS WEINBERG, as Director of the Division of Children and Family Services, fail to provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program ("SNAP") benefits within the time frames mandated by federal law to eligible households who file initial or renewal applications because of policies and practices that a) unlawfully deny applicants the opportunity to comply with application procedures and thereby result in Defendants denying their applications; and b) otherwise unlawfully delay processing resulting in eligibility decisions beyond federally-mandated time limits.

Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief against Defendants on behalf of themselves and members of a certified class to require Defendants to (1) ensure that SNAP applicants have the right to apply, including the right to apply for recertification, and to complete the application process in time to receive SNAP benefits within the federally mandated time frames; and (2) determine such households' eligibility within the mandated time frames and provide SNAP benefits within the mandated time frames to those eligible. A class has been certified in this action.

Defendants filed an Answer to Plaintiffs' Complaint disputing Plaintiffs' allegations, raising various affirmative defenses, and contesting Plaintiffs' claims for declaratory and injunctive relief.

Plaintiffs later filed a Motion for a Preliminary Injunction, which both parties have briefed and which is pending before the Court.

Nevertheless, in the interest of avoiding the costs, burdens, and uncertainty of potential litigation, the parties have agreed to resolve all issues presented in this litigation without further proceedings and without Defendants admitting any fault or liability. Whereas the parties desire to settle this action, and good cause appearing, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED:

I. DEFINITIONS

For purposes of this Stipulation and Order of Settlement (hereinafter "Order"), the ...


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