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Date Created:January 2, 2014
Date Uploaded to the Library:January 08, 2014
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THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT ARIZONA Mr. Smokys BBQ, LLC, al., Plaintiffs, vs. United States, al., Defendants. No. 13-2585-PHX-DGC PRELIMINARY INJUNCTION (AMENDED) Plaintiffs have filed application for temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, and Defendants have filed response. Docs. 10. The Court held hearing December 20, 2013. The Court will grant preliminary injunction. Background. The facts this order are taken from Plaintiffs affidavits and the parties briefing. 2005, Alfred and Shamirin Joseph, husband and wife, acquired Bubbas Drive Thru Surprise, Arizona. Bubbas located poor neighborhood. Most the people who live the area receive government assistance some manner, usually the form food stamps, now known the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Plaintiffs received letter from Defendants September 25, 2013, charging violations SNAP regulations. The letter listed SNAP trafficking violations which occurred 2008 and 2009, almost five years earlier, and concerned approximately $55 SNAP benefits. The letter gave Plaintiffs ten days respond the charges. Plaintiffs requested additional details about the charges, but received further information from Defendants. Because the charges concerned events from several years ago, Plaintiffs lacked records and memories respond fully. Plaintiffs responded writing the charges November 2013, and received decision letter from Defendants December 2013. The decision letter informed Plaintiffs that, effective immediately, Plaintiffs were permanently disqualified from participating the SNAP program. Plaintiffs had ten calendar days request administrative review, which they did, but SNAP regulations prevent Plaintiffs from applying for stay the disqualification during administrative and judicial review. See C.F.R. 279.2(d). Plaintiffs assert without contradiction that they operate very small store, accommodating only three four customers time, that they earn only $26,000 annually from the store, and that loss their SNAP qualifications will put them out business the next few weeks. They claim that they will out business before they can pursue any administrative judicial review the decision, and note that the law precludes them from recovering their losses their disqualification ultimately found have been erroneous. See U.S.C. 2023(a)(18). They assert due process violation. II. Preliminary Injunction. The parties agreed the December hearing that the Court should rule Plaintiffs request for preliminary injunction, but afford the parties opportunity make additional submissions after the ruling. Such injunction extraordinary remedy that should not granted unless the movant, clear showing, carries the burden persuasion. Mazurek Armstrong, 520 U.S. 968, 972 (1997) (per curiam) (quoting 11A Wright, Miller, Kane, Federal Practice and Procedure 2948, pp. 129-130 (2d ed. 1995)). injunction may granted only where the movant shows that he likely succeed the merits, that likely suffer irreparable harm the absence preliminary relief, that the balance equities tips his favor, and that injunction the public interest. Winter Natural Res. Def. Council, Inc., 555 U.S. (2008); Am. Trucking Assn, Inc. City Los Angeles, 559 F.3d 1046, 1052 (9th Cir. 2009). Likelihood Success the Merits. The Court concludes that Plaintiffs are likely succeed their as-applied due process challenge. The due process clause provides that individual cannot deprived property without constitutionally adequate procedures. Cleveland Board Education Loudermill, 470 U.S. 532, 541 (1985). prevail due process claim, Plaintiffs must show that they have property interest their SNAP qualification and that they received inadequate process before losing that property interest. Id. Defendants not dispute that Plaintiffs have such property interest. Doc. 10-11. The Supreme Court Mathews Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976), set forth three factors which judge the sufficiency administrative procedure: (1) the private interest that will affected the official action; (2) the risk erroneous deprivation the interest through the procedures used, and the probable value, any, additional substitute procedural safeguards; and (3) the governments interest, including the function involved and the fiscal and administrative burdens that the additional substitute procedural requirement would entail. Id. 335. Considering these factors this as-applied challenge, the Court concludes that the procedures afforded Plaintiffs are likely found insufficient. noted, Plaintiffs assert without contradiction that they will out business within matter weeks. Thus, their disqualification takes effect immediately provided Defendants procedures, with possibility stay, Plaintiffs will have been permanently deprived their business and livelihood through procedure that allowed them only ten days respond writing charges that are four five years old. Under Matthews three-factor analysis, the Court cannot conclude that such procedures are sufficient. First, significant private interest Plaintiffs livelihood will affected this official action. Second, the risk erroneous deprivation substantial given the age the charges, the loss memories and records the interim, and the fact that Plaintiffs were afforded opportunity heard other than written response required within ten days. Third, although the government clearly has significant interest prompt action when SNAP trafficking violations occur, the urgency that interest significantly undercut this case the fact that the Defendants waited four five years bring the charges. addition, the burden the further procedures Plaintiffs request stay disqualification during administrative and judicial review not significant given Defendants multi-year delay seeking disqualification. Two cases have addressed similar due process arguments, Ameira Corp. Veneman, 169 F.Supp.2d 432 (M.D. N.C. 2001), and Mansour United States, 2009 3763778 (E.D. Cal. 2009), and have found constitutional violation. The Court would find the reasoning these cases persuasive facial challenge Defendants procedures, but cannot reach the same conclusion this as-applied case. Given the unique facts this case, the disqualification will permanent, will cause the loss Plaintiffs business, and will based entirely single opportunity respond writing, only ten days notice, years-old charges. Both Ameira and Mansour noted that Defendants procedures afforded the plaintiffs those cases opportunities for administrative and judicial review the SNAP disqualification decision. light Plaintiffs tenuous financial situation, similar opportunity exists here, and the Court cannot conclude that the single, ten-day written response opportunity sufficient process under the Matthews considerations. Plaintiffs are therefore likely prevail the merits their due process claim. Irreparable Injury. Permanent loss Plaintiffs business and livelihood, with opportunity for redress U.S.C. 2023(a)(18)), constitutes likelihood irreparable harm. Balance the Equities. Defendants note that the governments strong interest policing SNAP trafficking and promptly closing down dishonest operations outweighs Plaintiffs interest maintaining their SNAP qualification, particularly when Plaintiffs are only incidental beneficiaries the SNAP program. The Court agrees with this proposition generally. this case, however, Defendants delay four five years bringing charges seriously undercuts any claim that the government had significant urgent interest disqualifying Plaintiffs from the SNAP program. this as-applied case, the Court concludes that Plaintiffs imminent loss their business and livelihood outweighs the governments long-delayed interest enforcing the SNAP regulations against Plaintiffs. Public Interest. Similarly, the public interest normally would favor honest and effectively enforced SNAP program. the unique facts this case, however, the Court concludes that the public interest would not served permanently shutting down Plaintiffs business ten days notice with stale charges that cannot easily addressed, particularly when the charges were not sufficiently important for Defendants act promptly. III. Preliminary Injunction. The Court finds that Plaintiffs have carried their burden showing that preliminary injunction warranted. The Court will require Plaintiffs post bond $250. The Court not persuaded that Defendants face any greater risk from the possible improper entry this injunction, particularly when Defendants have identified only $55 SNAP trafficking violations the last five years Plaintiffs business. ORDERED: Plaintiffs application (Doc. granted. Defendants are preliminarily enjoined from (a) disqualifying Plaintiffs from accepting Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits form payment for eligible items sold Plaintiffs store; (b) collecting any fines penalties result the disqualification; and (c) disabling Plaintiffs Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) connection and demanding return Plaintiffs EBT machine. the EBT connection has been disconnected, must reconnected immediately. This preliminary injunction shall remain effect throughout the pendency this action. January 10, 2014, either party may request the opportunity submit additional briefs factual material the Court related this preliminary injunction. The request shall made the form joint conference call the Court. additional submissions are not requested, the parties shall, the same date, file joint proposal for the remaining litigation this case, including proposed case schedule. Plaintiffs shall post $250 bond with the Clerk the Court. Dated this 2nd day January, 2014.