On December 13, 2005, a group of battered immigrant wives and children of lawful U.S. residents filed a lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, challenging the denial of food stamps, Medicaid, and/or other public assistance benefits to certain categories of immigrants. The plaintiffs alleged that they applied for public benefits at New York City Job Centers, but were improperly denied those benefits in violation of state and federal law. They sought emergency injunctive relief and class certification.
Defendants denied the allegations and sought to disqualify plaintiffs' counsel from handling the case, as the plaintiffs' attorneys had submitted affidavits in support of a preliminary injunction and were therefore witnesses. The District Court (Judge Jed Rakoff) denied the request to disqualify. M.K.B. v. Eggleston, 414 F.Supp.2d 469, 1 (S.D. NY 2006), reconsideration denied by M.K.B. v. Eggleston, 2006 WL 453215 (S.D.N.Y. Feb 24, 2006).
By Order dated February 16, 2006, the District Court entered a partial preliminary injunction which required certain immediate corrections to New York City and State public assistance agency systems relative to applications for public benefits by non-citizens. It then conducted a nine day evidentiary hearing to further assess the case and determine whether additional preliminary injunctive relief and/or class certification were warranted.
On August 29, 2006 Judge Rakoff certified the class and expanded the preliminary injunction. Judge Rakoff found that there was a substantial likelihood plaintiffs would prevail given evidence of numerous instances of wrongful denials with respect to battered aliens who were eligible for benefits, due to inadequately trained state and City personnel and faulty training materials and policy directives. M.K.B. v. Eggleston, 445 F.Supp.2d 400, 1 (S.D. NY 2006). Defendants' motion for reconsideration was denied. M.K.B. v. Eggleston, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 81704 (S.D. NY November 7, 2006). Shortly thereafter, the parties reached a tenative settlement.
Following a fairness hearing on May 24, 2007, the Court approved the Settlement Agreement by order dated June 26, 2007. Under the Agreement, many class members would receive "automatic" case reviews to determine whether they were entitled to retroactive public benefits. The City agreed to train 150 immigrant liaisons to review and handle the case reviews of class members and to process future applications by immigrants for public benefits. The City also agreed to refrain from denying, discontinuing, or reducing public benefits based on immigration status to eligible class members. The informal relief system created by the Court's preliminary injunction would be continued and quality assurance audits would be conducted every 6 months. The Court retained jurisdiction for 4 years to monitor compliance with the terms of the Agreement.
On July 16, 2007, the Court entered Judgment on a Settlement Agreement regarding attorney's fees in which the Defendants agreed to pay the Plaintiffs attorneys $2,850,000.
On September 29, 2011, the Court ordered an extension of the Settlement Agreement through February 15, 2013. Minor adjustments were made to account for problems with statutes of limitations. The Defendants appealed to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, however, the appeal was withdrawn on April 9, 2012. Joshua Arocho - 07/12/2012