University of Michigan Law School
Civil Rights Litigation Clearinghouse
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Case Name Coker v. Bowen PB-DC-0001
Docket / Court 86-2448 ( D.D.C. )
State/Territory District of Columbia
Case Type(s) Public Benefits / Government Services
Case Summary
On September 2, 1986, Plaintiffs, three homeless families with dependent children, together with the National Coalition for the Homeless, filled a lawsuit in the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia, against the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS), in his ... read more >
On September 2, 1986, Plaintiffs, three homeless families with dependent children, together with the National Coalition for the Homeless, filled a lawsuit in the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia, against the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HSS), in his official capacity, and the HSS. The Plaintiffs alleged that HSS had failed to properly monitor and enforce the compliance of States participating in the federal Emergency Assistance to Families program (EAF), established pursuant to Title IV-A of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. S 601 et seq. (the "Act"), and which was designed to provide prompt access to emergency shelter assistance for homeless families.

The complaint alleged that HHS had not performed the specific actions required by the Act and its implementing regulations to assess each state's compliance with its approved plans, and had failed to take any action adequate to ensure that states actually provided emergency shelter assistance to eligible homeless families. The claim was brought under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§706(1)-(2), which requires Federal agencies to comply with their administrative regulations and which forbid arbitrary and capricious enforcement. The Plaintiffs sought a declaration from the court that HHS was obligated to ensure States adhere to their commitments relating to the EAF program, and an injunction compelling HHS to ensure participating states provided sufficient funding to guarantee emergency shelter assistance.

On April 11, 1989, the District Court (Judge John Garrett Penn) granted HHS's Motion to Dismiss, finding that the Plaintiffs lacked standing to sue. Coker v. Bowen, 715 F.Supp. 383 (D. D.C. 1989). The Plaintiffs appealed the dismissal to the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which on May 4, 1990 (Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg), affirmed the lower court's decision. The Appellate Court found that the Administrative Procedure Act did not create a private cause of action under which a suit could be brought to demand judicial review of a federal agency's failure to enforce statutory provisions.

The case is closed.

Alex Colbert-Taylor - 06/25/2013


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Issues and Causes of Action
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Issues
Defendant-type
Jurisdiction-wide
General
Emergency shelter
Placement in shelters
Poverty/homelessness
Plaintiff Type
Private Plaintiff
Type of Facility
Government-run
Causes of Action Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 551 et seq.
Defendant(s) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Plaintiff Description Three homeless families with dependent children, together with the National Coalition for the Homeless.
Indexed Lawyer Organizations None on record
Class action status sought Yes
Class action status granted No
Prevailing Party Defendant
Public Int. Lawyer No
Nature of Relief None
Source of Relief None
Form of Settlement None on record
Order Duration not on record
Case Closing Year n/a
Case Ongoing No
Docket(s)
1:86-cv-02448-jgp (D.D.C.) 12/31/1986
PB-DC-0001-9000.pdf | Detail
PACER [Public Access to Court Electronic Records]
General Documents
Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief 09/02/1986
PB-DC-0001-0001.pdf | Detail
Memorandum 04/11/1989 (715 F.Supp. 383) (D.D.C.)
PB-DC-0001-0002.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Opinion for the Court 05/04/1990 (902 F.2d 84)
PB-DC-0001-0003.pdf | WESTLAW| LEXIS | Detail
Document Source: Westlaw
Judges Ginsburg, Ruth Bader (D.C. Circuit, SCOTUS)
PB-DC-0001-0003
Penn, John Garrett (D.D.C.)
PB-DC-0001-0002 | PB-DC-0001-9000
Monitors/Masters None on record
Plaintiff's Lawyers Manishin, Glenn B. (District of Columbia)
PB-DC-0001-0001 | PB-DC-0001-9000
Defendant's Lawyers None on record
Other Lawyers None on record

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