Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, Hammond Division. No. 80 C 392 -- James T. Moody, Judge.
Before BAUER and EASTERBROOK, Circuit Judges, and SWYGERT, Senior Circuit Judge.
BAUER, Circuit Judge. The district court entered an injunction to compel compliance with the Food Stamp Act, 7 U.S.C. § 2011 et seq., by individual officials of the State of Indiana and Lake County, Indiana. These defendants appeal, contending that the plaintiffs, private citizens who applied for food stamps, have no private right to sue under the Act, that they are immune from plaintiffs' suit under the eleventh amendment, and that the trial judge abused his discretion in granting the injunction. We disagree and affirm the district court.
Plaintiffs are indigent persons whose applications for food stamps were not processed by the officials of the Lake County Department of Public Welfare within the deadlines established by the Food Stamp Act. Plaintiffs filed this class action against these officials and officials of the State of Indiana for failure to properly administer the food stamp program, alleging numerous violations of the Act. Plaintiffs then moved for a preliminary injunction to enjoin the defendants from further violating the Act. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B), hearings on this motion were first conducted by a magistrate, who issued proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law and recommended denying the motion. Plaintiffs objected and the matter was transferred to a district court judge, who conducted a de novo hearing.
The district court found that the defendants had violated eleven provisions of the Food Stamp Act. These violations included failure to allow an indigent person to file a food stamp application on the day he or she contacted the food stamp office, failure to determine within the statute's deadlines whether the applicants were entitled to benefits, failure to recertify eligible households without an interruption of benefits, and failure to provide bilingual staff and notices in areas where at least 100 families speak the same non-English language. Therefore, the district court issued the injunction and ordered the defendants to submit a plan for corrective action to the court. The trial judge also established a time period in which to implement the plan.
Officials of the both Lake County and the State of Indiana contend that the plaintiffs do not have a private right of action to redress violations of the Food Stamp Act. The defendants argue that the administrative remedies provided by the Act are the sole remedies available to the plaintiffs. Although the Act does not explicitly set forth any private right of action, we must determine whether a private remedy is implicit in the statute under the test established by Cort v. Ash, 422 U.S. 66, 95 S. Ct. 2080, 45 L. Ed. 2d 26 (1975). In Cort v. Ash, the Supreme Court stated that we must consider four factor sin making this determination. First, does the statute create a federal right in favor of plaintiffs? Second, did the legislature indicate an intent to allow a private remedy or preclude one? Third, is a private right of action consistent with the underlying purposes of the legislative scheme? Finally, is the right of action a traditional state law claim in an area basically the concern of the states so that it would be inappropriate to infer a private remedy based solely on federal law?
The defendants do not dispute that the Food Stamp Act creates a federal right for the benefit of persons entitled to food stamps. See, e.g., Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 262, 25 L. Ed. 2d 287, 90 S. Ct. 1011 (1970). Second, it is apparent that Congress intended to permit a private right of action for violations of the Act. In 1977, Congress amended the provisions of the Act that provide the Department of Agriculture with means to enforce compliance with the Act by state officials. After reviewing the remedies, the House of Representatives Agricultural Committee Report stated:
The administrative remedies against the state contained in section 11(f) and elsewhere should not be construed as abrogating in any way private causes of action against states for failure to comply with federal statutory or regulatory requirements.
H.R. REP. NO. 464, 95th Cong., 1st Sess. 398, reprinted in 1977 U.S. CODE CONG. & AD. NEWS 1978, 2327. This report recognized the plethora of cases prior to 1977 involving private law suits to enforce compliance with the Act by state officials. Id. at 414, reprinted in 1977 U.S. CODE CONG. & AD. NEWS at 2342. Similarly, when the enforcement provisions of the Act were again amended in 1980, the Committee's report recommended that the Department of Agriculture recoup legal expenses it might incur defending employees in private civil actions that triggered a later criminal prosecution by the United States. H.R. REP. NO. 788, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. 145, reprinted in 1980 U.S. CODE CONG. & AD. NEWS 843, 978. The report specifically discussed a private lawsuit to enforce compliance with the Act by state officials, Bush v. Bays, 463 F. Supp. 59 (E.D. Va. 1979). Id. at 144, reprinted in 1980 U.S. CODE CONG. & AD. NEWS at 977. The explicit statement that administrative remedies to abrogate a private party's right to sue and the specific acknowledgement of cases based on that right clearly indicate congressional intent to allow a private remedy based on the Food Stamp Act.
We also fail to see how plaintiff's suit to force these state officials to comply with the Act is inconsistent with the Act's purpose of assuring a nutritionally adequate diet for persons in this country. Allowing a private suit to compel compliance with the Act promotes the right of eligible persons to receive food stamps. Finally, this suit does not involve a traditional state law claim, but is based solely on a federal right created in the recent past. it is therefore appropriate to infer a private remedy based on federal law. In view of these factors, we conclude that plaintiffs have a private right of action to enforce compliance with the Food Stamp Act by these state officials.*fn1
The State of Indiana officials contend that they are immune from the type of relief sought by the plaintiffs under the eleventh amendment. We will not recount their argument, which neglects the Supreme Court's holding in Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 39 L. Ed. 2d 662, 94 S. Ct. 1347 (1971). As the Supreme Court recently stated in Pennhurst State School ...