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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, Plaintiff,
v.
COURTNEY PHILLIPS, as Chief Executive Office of the Nebraska Health and Human Services, and DOUGLAS WEINBERG, as Director of the Division of Children and Family Services, Defendants.

Molly M. Mccleery James A. Goddard Attorneys for Plaintiffs Nebraska Appleseed Center for Law In the Marc Cohan Mary R. Mannix Attorneys for Plaintiffs

DOUGLAS J. PETERSON, NE #18146 Attorney General of Nebraska

David A. Lopez, NE #24947 Jessica M. Forch, NE #24912 Assistant Attorneys General Attorneys for Defendants

STIPULATION AND ORDER OF SETTLEMENT

JOHN M. GERRARD UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

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 following definitions apply:

1. "Timely Denial" means, as to initial applications for SNAP benefits, an action taken by the case worker or the data system to deny the initial application and to cause a notice to be generated on or before the 30th day after the application was submitted to the agency, unless the 30th day falls on a weekend or holiday. If the 30th day falls on a weekend or holiday, the denial of SNAP benefits shall be timely if the SNAP application is denied on the next business day after the weekend or holiday.

2. "Timely Application Approval" means a) as to applications eligible for expedited processing, that SNAP benefits are issued to the household no later than the 7th day following the date on which the household submitted the application; and b) as to applications subject to 30 day processing, that SNAP benefits are issued to the household no later than the 30th day following the date on which the household submitted the application.

3. "Timely Recertification Application Approval" means a) as to households that have filed a timely recertification application pursuant to 7 C.F.R. § 273.14 (c), that SNAP benefits are issued not later than 30 calendar days after the date the household received its last allotment or no later than the household's normal issuance cycle in the month following the end of its current certification period as provided in 7 C.F.R. §§ 273. 14 (d)(l) and (2); and b) as to households that have filed a timely recertification application after the 15th day of the last month of the certification period, but before the end of the certification period, that SNAP benefits are issued not later than 30 calendar days after the application was submitted.

4. "Recertification Application Denial" means a) a denial or termination of SNAP benefits at the end of a household's certification period that is a result of a worker action to deny or terminate benefits; and b) the automatic closure of a household's case at the end of the certification period.

5. "Timely Recertification Application Denial" means a) as to timely filed recertification applications, an action by the worker or the data system to deny and mail notice of such denial by the end of the household's current certification period; and b) as to recertification applications filed after the 15th of the last month of the certification period, but before the end of the certification period, an action by the worker or the data system to deny and mail notice of denial by the 30th day following the date the application was submitted, or in the cases where the 30th day falls on a weekend or holiday, the next business day following the 30th day.

6. “Date of Issuance” means the date that SNAP benefits are available to the household and such date is 1 day after the SNAP application (initial or recertification) is approved.

II. CLASS CERTIFICATION

7. During the term of the Court's jurisdiction, including any extensions, a class is certified consisting of all Nebraska residents who, since January 1, 2012, have applied, are applying, or will apply for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP”) benefits from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services through an initial and/or recertification application.

III. DEFENDANTS' OBLIGATIONS

8. Set forth in sub-paragraphs 8(a) to 8(j) are Defendants' obligations under federal statutes and regulations as to initial and expedited SNAP ...


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