Current Advocacy & Lawsuits

 

RACIAL EQUITY     HEALTH EQUITY      HOUSING EQUITY

Lawsuits:

Young et al v. Azar et al: Medicaid Work Requirements

  • Background: CCJ and our co-counsel, the National Heath Law Program (NHeLP) and the Michigan Poverty Law Program (MPLP), filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of low-income Michigan residents enrolled in the Healthy Michigan Plan (HMP).  The lawsuit challenges the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ approval of Michigan’s Section 1115 waiver project, which conditions Medicaid coverage on work requirements and adds barriers to accessing care, including heightened and mandatory premiums for low-income individuals and families.  If implemented, the work requirements alone (effective Jan. 1, 2020) would cause an estimated 61,000 to 183,000 individuals to lose healthcare coverage.  The lawsuit asked the court to declare that the approval of the waiver project violated the law and to stop the implementation of the project. 

    Read the press release here
    Read the complaint here

  • Current Status: On March 4, 2020, Judge Boasberg ruled that the approval of the HMP work requirements was unlawful.  Accordingly, the State of Michigan stopped all implementation and enforcement efforts. This ruling means that HMP participants are no longer required to report work, school or other activities to maintain their coverage. 

    Read the press release here 

    The case remains pending in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to determine the validity of the remainder of the approval.  However, the State of Michigan cannot implement increased eligibility requirements for Medicaid during the Public Health Emergency under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. In February 2021, The Biden Administration notified Michigan that CMS has preliminarily determined that work and community engagement requirements do not further the objections of the Medicaid Act, thus commencing the process of withdrawing approval for the Section 1115 waiver project. 

  • For more information, contact Attorney Kelly Bidelman by calling (810) 244-8044 ext. 303

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Barry et al. v. Lyon: Public Assistance for Felony Suspects and Their Families

  • Background: CCJ and our co-counsel, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU), filed a complaint against against the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) in July 2013. The complaint challenged the state’s practice of automatically terminating food assistance, cash assistance, or child care benefits to anyone with an outstanding felony warrant. CCJ and the ACLU also alleged that DHHS informed benefit recipients of the terminations in a manner that was unconstitutional and failed to qualify as notice of the termination.
  • Current status: The District Court held that the criminal justice disqualification notices DHHS sent to some people beginning in December 2012 violate a federal law and the U.S. Constitution. The Court also held that DHHS cannot deny or cut off Food Assistance Program (FAP) benefits solely because a person has an outstanding felony warrant. DHHS must also determine that: (a) the person is intentionally fleeing to avoid prosecution, custody, or jail/prison; and (b) law enforcement officials are actively seeking the person. The US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit affirmed, holding that: (1) The mootness exception applied in this case, so FAP recipients had standing to pursue their claims even after their individual situations had been administratively resolved; (2) a private right of action existed to enforce the FAP benefits and a right to a fair hearing; (3) FAP benefits could not be denied without reaching the determinations set forth by the District Court; and (4) the disqualification notices violated the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause by failing to sufficiently state the reasons for the disqualifications.  By the most recent estimate, nearly 17,000 individuals have had over $52 million in benefits restored as a result of this lawsuit.  CCJ remains involved in this case for the purposes of monitoring the State's compliance with the Court's ruling
  • For more information, visit the ACLU’s website or call the ACLU at (313) 578-6826.

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Yamaoka et al. v. Jocelyn Benson, in her official capacity as Secretary of State, Michigan Department of State:  Constitutionality of Policy Regarding Titling of "Abandoned" Mobile Homes

  • Background: In May 2019, CCJ and our co-counsel, Rosi & Gardner, P.C. (R&G), filed a class-action complaint against Jocelyn Benson, in her official capacity as Michigan's Secretary of State (SOS), challenging the constitutionality of the SOS's policy regarding the titling of abandoned mobile homes.  The policy instructed mobile home parks that they can acquire title to mobile homes that are abandoned on their property simply by obtaining a surety bond for twice the value of the mobile home, and filing the bond along with a title application with an SOS branch office.  The complaint asserted that the policy, which does not provide the mobile home owners with any pre-determination notice of their right to request a hearing before their title is taken, violates the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.  Plaintiffs sought a court order declaring that the policy is unconstitutional, a permanent injunction that prevents the SOS from giving title to mobile home parks without providing the mobile home owner with a notice that they can request a hearing to challenge the claim that the home was abandoned.

  • Current status:  In February, 2020, the SOS eliminated this policy from their Title and Registration Manual.  The SOS filed a motion asking the Court to dismiss the lawsuit arguing that it is moot since mobile home parks may no longer acquire title to the mobile home without an assignment of title from the mobile home owner, or by obtaining a court order.  Plaintiffs responded to the motion arguing that the SOS's voluntary cessation of the policy does not render the lawsuit as moot because there is nothing preventing the SOS administration, or a future one, from re-implementing the policy.  The U.S. District Court found that the SOS’s voluntary cessation of the policy was not reasonably expected to recur. The Court therefore granted the SOS’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. However, the Court also cautioned that should the policy be resumed in the future, the Plaintiffs may request that the lawsuit be reinstated.
  • Other developments:  As a result of the litigation and the SOS’s voluntary cessation of its policy that allowed mobile home parks to acquire title to abandoned mobile homes through the surety bond process, mobile home parks now have only two options. They may obtain title to abandoned mobile homes by getting an assignment of title from the lawful owner. They may also get title by filing a lawsuit in circuit court seeking to “quiet title” to the mobile home. Despite this, CCJ has received anecdotal reports that some mobile home parks may be “selling” abandoned mobile homes to individuals, without being able to transfer a valid certificate of title to the “purchaser,” or that mobile home parks may simply be leasing mobile homes to tenants despite not owning the mobile home. Without possessing valid title to these allegedly abandoned mobile home, CCJ does not believe that a mobile home park can sell them or even lease them to tenants.
  • For more information, or if you have questions about your own mobile home, contact Attorney Greg Abler, at (810) 244-8044 ext. 301. 

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Amicus Curiae:

Bauserman v  Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency:

  • Background: CCJ, together with the Arc Michigan, Detroit Eviction Defense, Michigan Legal Services and United Community Housing Coalition, filed a brief amicus curiae in support of the Plaintiffs-Appellants position on appeal.  This is a class-action lawsuit brought by former recipients of unemployment insurance benefits.  Based on a faulty computer algorithm, the Agency found that the recipients had committed fraud and wrongfully garnished their wages and intercepted their tax returns, without due process of the law.  CCJ argued that this is an appropriate case for the court to infer damages because the state’s egregious misconduct drove families deeper into poverty, and there was no administrative process to fully remediate the harm that the Agency caused or to challenge the system-wide use of the computer algorithm.  In addition, the public interest is served by protecting the due process rights of recipients of unemployment insurance because the program prevents poverty in the wake of joblessness. 

  • Current Status: The Michigan Supreme Court accepted the brief for filing on March 6, 2020, and oral argument was heard on October 6, 2021.  In July, 2022, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that thousands of Michigan residents wrongly accused of fraud could seek financial relief from the state.  In January, the Michigan Court of Claims approved a $20 million class action settlement and also established dates for participation in the settlement process.
  • Michigan residents who believe they were wrongly accused from 2013-15 of falsely receiving unemployment insurance benefits should be aware of two upcoming deadlines to join a $20 million class action settlement with the State of Michigan. The important deadlines to submit forms are:
    • April 5, 2023: The registration form which determines eligibility for an award from the Compensation Fund.
    • April 14, 2023: Claim forms, opt outs and objections to the settlement.

    Those seeking further information or wishing to submit a claim can go to UIAClassAction.com, call 1-833-438-5028, or email info@UIAClassAction.com.

Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency v. Lucente: 

  • Background: CCJ was represented by the law firm of Pitt, McGehee, Palmer, Bonanni & Rivers and acted as amicus curiae in support of Lucente to challenge the practice of the MUIA ignoring statutory language to issue accusations of fraud and skipping the initial determination phase thus depriving claimants of an internal review of the Agency's decision and effectively barring claimants from protesting punitive quadruple penalties, stemming from the robo-fraud adjudications. 

  • Current Status: The Michigan Supreme Court granted the motion to file an Amicus Brief.  Oral argument was held on March 3, 2021.  On July 30, 2021, the Michigan Supreme Court agreed with Lucente and held that the payment of benefits cannot serve as an original determination on the alleged fraud and that the UIA's issuance of determinationless "redeterminations" deprives claimants of their right to protest. 

Farish v Michigan Department of Talent & Economic Development: 

  • Background: CCJ was represented by Andrea Van Hoven and acted as amicus curiae in support of Farish to challenge the illegal practice of deducting penalties and interest from claimant's benefits to recoup unrelated debts from past overpayments. 

  • Current Status:   The Michigan Court of Appeals agreed that the statute precludes deductions of penalties and interest from current benefits.

Holifield v Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency: 

  •  Background: CCJ prepared and filed an amicus curiae brief in support of Holifield to challenge the denial of benefits to a part-time Michigan worker that received RSDI even though the CARES Act allowed for benefits to be paid to part-time workers.  Michigan law only allows for payments to full-time workers, however, Michigan agreed to administer the program in accordance with the CARES Act.  There is an ambiguity within the enabling provisions of the Federal PUA Program since Congress intended that part-time workers to be covered and federal law reigns supreme when there is a state and federal law conflict.  Denying PUA to part-time workers is contrary to both congressional intent and public policy.

  •  Current Status:   The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Appeals Commission accepted the motion to file an Amicus Brief.

Advocacy:

Here are some of CCJ’s current advocacy projects:

 Racial Equity

Racial Impact Analysis

CCJ has a stand-alone commitment to advance racial justice and combat structural and institutional racism.  CCJ determined that there should be legislation in Michigan requiring a racial impact analysis be performed using data to demonstrate how new laws will impact communities of color.  Sometimes, a law that is neutral on its face can have a negative effect on minority and ethnic groups in ways that were not foreseen, nor intended.  Similar to a fiscal impact analysis that is performed on bills that are scheduled for a hearing to determine fiscal impact, a racial impact analysis will assess the bill to determine whether it will have any impact on racial or ethnic groups.  Seven other states require racial impact statements but only on legislation concerning the criminal justice system.  Michigan’s bill would require a racial impact analysis be performed on legislation that affects the social determinants of health:  criminal justice, economic stability, education, employment, healthcare, housing and transportation.   CCJ formed the Racial Impact Analysis Coalition made up of several Michigan agencies and organizations, which meets monthly to strategize and advocate for advancement of the bill.  Based on these efforts, legislation was introduced and the Coalition is actively advocating for its passage.

Health Equity

Health Law Partnership

CCJ is a partner of the National Health Law Program’s (NHeLP) Health Law Partnership to preserve and protect access to high quality health care, including through Medicaid, the Affordable Care Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act.  CCJ works to ensure access to Medicaid eligibility and services and Medicaid coverage during and after the public health emergency, with a commitment towards achieving health equity.  CCJ actively advocates for laws, policies and practices that counteract structural racism, institutional barriers and implicit bias in the healthcare system.

 Health Eligibility Law Project (HELP)

 CCJ’s Health and Nutrition Advocate is a trained MI Bridges Navigation Partner and provides assistance with enrollment, questions and problems with Michigan’s public benefits programs.  These programs include health care coverage, Medicaid, children’s special health care services, cash assistance, child care assistance, food assistance, emergency relief, migrant services, refugee assistance and WIC.

Housing Equity

Mobile Home Consumer Protections

CCJ has played a critical role in a workgroup led by Representative John Cherry (49th House District) to advance a comprehensive package of House bills that would amend the Mobile Home Commission Act (MHCA).  The legislation would provide protections for owners and tenants of mobile homes located in mobile home parks.  Some of the protections include licensing, inspection and database requirements for mobile home parks and process for abandoned mobile homes requiring payment of fair market value less unpaid rent and fees. The bills were passed by the House in January 2022.   CCJ expects to continue its role in advancing this important effort when Rep. Cherry assumes his position in the Michigan Senate (27th District) starting in January 2023.

Source of Income Discrimination

CCJ is a member of the statewide Coalition for Expanding Housing Access led by the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness.  The Coalition is advocating for passage of source of income discrimination legislation that would amend the Landlord Tenant Act and the Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act to prohibit landlords from discriminating against housing choice voucher (Section 8) holders or people with other sources of income, including housing assistance, public assistance, emergency rental assistance, veterans benefits, social security or other programs administered by any federal, state, local or nonprofit entity.

CCJ is also advocating locally for a Flint Fair Rental Ordinance.  Similar to the statewide effort, the ordinance would prohibit discrimination against applicants that receive housing choice vouchers or other sources of income.  The ordinance would also protect applicants from predatory collection of application fees, blanket landlord policies banning applicants due to prior eviction filings or conviction records, prohibit landlords from requiring force-placed insurance or using a security deposit insurance replacement project and applying only the portion of rent a tenant is responsible for paying in its minimum income threshold calculation.

Appraisal Bias

CCJ and Legal Services of Eastern Michigan are collaborating on developing a joint strategy for prosecuting appraisal bias actions under the federal Fair Housing Act.  While discrimination in appraisal bias is not new, seeking redress under the Fair Housing Act for discrimination is an emerging area of practice.  CCJ plans to ultimately identify appraisal bias and pursue litigation on behalf of individuals who have been victimized by appraisal bias.

 

 

Last updated December, 2022

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