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Cozart v. Winfield

decided: September 2, 1982.

WILLIAM COZART, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
ARNOLD F. WINFIELD, INDIVIDUALLY AND IN HIS CAPACITY AS SUPERVISOR FOR EVANSTON TOWNSHIP, AND EVANSTON TOWNSHIP, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 81-C-2359 -- George N. Leighton, Judge.

Posner and Coffey, Circuit Judges, and Campbell, Senior District Judge.*fn*

Author: Coffey

COFFEY, Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from an order of the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, Judge George Leighton presiding. The order appealed from granted the defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissed the plaintiff's amended complaint in this action brought under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The actions of the defendants in administering township General Assistance grants were alleged to have violated the plaintiff's due process and equal protection rights under the Fourteenth Amendment. For the reasons stated below, the order of the district court granting the defendants' motion for summary judgment and dismissing the plaintiff's amended complaint is AFFIRMED.

The defendants in this action are the City of Evanston Township, Illinois, and Arnold F. Winfield, supervisor of Evanston Township. In his capacity as supervisor, Mr. Winfield administers the township's General Assistance program which provides welfare assistance from local taxes to eligible township residents. Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 23, § 6-1 et seq. (1979).

Plaintiff William Cozart is an unmarried adult resident of Evanston Township. On January 4, 1980, Cozart was discharged from his employment because he had been absent from work due to his choice to care for his sister's child while she was hospitalized. The day after his discharge, the plaintiff contacted the Evanston General Assistance Office to request aid because his discharge from employment left him without income. The Evanston General Assistance Office informed Cozart that, under Evanston Township's General Assistance Regulations, he could not apply or be eligible for General Assistance for a thirty-day period because he had been discharged from his employment for cause. The relevant provision of the Evanston regulation, entitled "Terminated Employees," provides:

Persons who voluntarily leave their jobs without due cause or who are terminated for misconduct (excessive absence or tardiness, etc.) cannot file a General Assistance application for thirty (30) days from the date of termination. (III. 5. of Evanston GA Manual).

After waiting thirty days, the plaintiff applied for General Assistance on February 6, 1980. On February 26, 1980, the plaintiff received General Assistance benefits retroactive to February 6, 1980.

The plaintiff Cozart then filed a timely administrative appeal challenging the legality of the Evanston regulation and its effect of precluding him from applying for and receiving General Assistance benefits until thirty days after his employment termination. Following a hearing before the General Assistance Board of Appeals of Cook County, a final administrative decision was rendered. This decision upheld Evanston's Terminated Employees Regulation and affirmed the denial of plaintiff's right to apply for and receive General Assistance for thirty days following the termination of his employment.

Instead of appealing this administrative decision through the Illinois state court system,*fn1 the plaintiff filed a § 1983 action in federal district court challenging the validity of Evanston's "Terminated Employees" regulation. In his § 1983 action, the plaintiff alleged that the "Terminated Employees" regulation violated his rights to equal protection and due process by improperly imposing a requirement for General Assistance eligibility (i.e., the thirty-day waiting period) not authorized by the Illinois General Assistance Statute, Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 23, § 6-1 et seq. (1979).*fn2 Plaintiff sought declaratory and permanent injunctive relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.

The defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint was granted by the district court on July 24, 1981, with the court finding that plaintiff failed to state a § 1983 claim or cause of action against the defendants. However, on August 7, 1981, pursuant to a Rule 59*fn3 motion by the plaintiff, the district court vacated its July 24, 1981 order of dismissal and granted the plaintiff Cozart the right to file an amended complaint. The plaintiff filed an amended complaint and the defendants filed another motion to dismiss. The district court granted the defendants' motion, finding again that plaintiff failed to state a claim with respect to the thirty-day wait for General Assistance benefits.*fn4

ISSUES

1. Does the Evanston "Terminated Employees" General Assistance regulation violate the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

2. Does the Evanston "Terminated Employees" General Assistance regulation violate the Equal Protection clause ...


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