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Roque v. State Dep't of Soc. Servs.

Court of Appeal of Louisiana, Fourth Circuit

February 18, 2015


APPEAL FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, ORLEANS PARISH. NO. 2013-06338, DIVISION " D-16" . Honorable Lloyd J. Medley, Judge.



Celia M. Alexander, Louisiana Dept. of Children and Family Services, Baton Rouge, LA, COUNSEL FOR DEFENDANT/APPELLEE.

(Court composed of Chief Judge James F. McKay, III, Judge Dennis R. Bagneris, Sr., Judge Max N. Tobias, Jr.)


Max N. Tobias, Jr., Judge.

Page 1221

[2014-0865 La.App. 4 Cir. 1] Justo E. Roque, Jr., plaintiff/appellant, appeals a judgment that affirmed a decision by the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services (hereafter referred to as " Family Services" ), determining the amount of benefits to which Mr. Roque was entitled from 1 January 2012 to February 2014. In addition, we review the decisions rendered on 5 March 2012 and 12 March 2012 by the Louisiana Division of Administrative Law that were also affirmed by the trial court. After reviewing the record and applicable law, we affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Page 1222

The facts of this case are essentially undisputed. Mr. Roque was disabled in 2005. In addition to receiving Supplemental Security Income payments from the Social Security Administration, he is also a participant in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (" SNAP" )[1] administered by Family Services. Eligibility for SNAP is regulated by the Food and Nutrition Service of the United States Department of Agriculture (" USDA" ). The regulations governing eligibility are found in 7 C.F.R. 271 through 285. Family Services is the Louisiana state agency authorized to administer and distribute funds under the program and Family [2014-0865 La.App. 4 Cir. 2] Services must comply with federal regulations to determine eligibility and the amounts necessary to meet the needs of qualified households.

In December 2011, Mr. Roque was receiving Supplemental Security Income in the monthly amount of $607 and SNAP benefits in the amount of $86 per month. In late November 2011, he received a Notice of Change of Payment from the Social Security Administration indicating that he would be receiving a cost-of-living increase starting in January 2012, resulting in a total monthly amount of $698, an increase of $91 per month. In mid-December 2011, Mr. Roque received a " mass change" letter from DCFS stating that in light of his increase of income, his monthly SNAP benefits would be reduced from $86 to $41. The amount of $41 was paid to Mr. Roque for one month; the following month, the payment was adjusted to $62 because one of his allowable expenses (rent) had increased.

Mr. Roque appealed the reduction and requested a fair hearing. In a letter dated 26 January 2012, the Louisiana Division of Administrative Law notified Mr. Roque at his current address that his fair hearing request had been granted and he would be notified of an upcoming hearing date. In a 16 February 2012 letter, Mr. Roque was advised that his fair hearing would be held by telephone conference on 5 March 2012 at 10:00 a.m.; he was provided with instructions on how to initiate the call. The record reflects that Mr. Roque did not call in on the date and time set; the matter was considered abandoned after the hearing officer allowed an additional fifteen minutes for Mr. Roque to call.

[2014-0865 La.App. 4 Cir. 3] On 12 March 2012, Mr. Roque filed a petition for rehearing with the Louisiana Division of Administrative Law. The request was denied on the basis that Mr. Roque did not set forth or explain any grounds for a rehearing as set forth in and required by La. R.S. 49:959 (which includes " other good grounds for further consideration of the issues and the evidence in the public interest[.]" ) and that the order terminating adjudication was not contrary to the law.

Mr. Roque filed a petition for judicial review with the 19th Judicial District Court for East Baton Rouge Parish as required by law, but was unable to travel to Baton Rouge to litigate his case. By agreement of the parties and order of the 19th Judicial District Court, the case was transferred to Orleans Parish Civil District Court where it was heard on 22 May 2014. At the time of trial, the court noted that Mr. Roque was then receiving $90 per month in SNAP benefits. After oral argument and the presentation of ...

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