Justia Public Benefits Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Washington Supreme Court
Washington v. Catling
In 2016, Washington charged Jason Catling with two counts of delivery of heroin. Pursuant to a plea deal, Catling pleaded guilty to one count in exchange for the State's agreement to dismiss the other, and to recommend a residential drug offender sentencing alternative (DOSA). During the sentencing hearing, Catling's attorney argued that because Catling's sole source of income was Social Security disability benefits, the trial court should not impose any legal financial obligations (LFOs), including mandatory obligations, based on the Washington Supreme Court's decision in City of Richland v. Wakefield, 380 P.3d 459 (2016), which had just issued the day before Catling's sentencing hearing. The trial court took the LFO matter under advisement, finding Catling's sole source of income were benefits totaling $753 per month. The trial court ultimately issued an order imposing LOFs totaling $800, finding LFOs could be ordered when a person was indigent and whose only source of income was social security disability. The Court of Appeals held that the particular obligations imposed here did not violate the federal antiattachment statute, but remanded for clarification of the payment order. The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals in part, holding that the trial court erred in imposing a $200 filing fee on Catling. Further, the case was remanded to the sentencing court for a determination of whether Catling previously provided a DNA sample; if so, then the trial court's imposition of a $100 DNA collection fee was in error. The Supreme Court affirmed the imposition of the $500 crime victim fund assessment, but remanded for the trial court to revise the judgment and sentence and repayment order to comply with HB 1783, and to indicate the LFO could not be satisfied out of Catling's Social Security benefits. View "Washington v. Catling" on Justia Law
Dolan v. King County
King County sought ways to provide legal defense services to indigent criminal defendants. The County settled on a system of using nonprofit corporations to provide services funded through and monitored by the County's Office of the Public Defender (OPD). Over time, the County took steps to improve and make these nonprofit organizations more accountable to the County. In so doing, it asserted more control over the groups that provided defender services. Respondents are employees of the defender organizations who sued the County for state employee benefits. They argued the County's funding and control over their "independent" organizations essentially made them state employees for the purposes of participating in the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS). Applying the pertinent statues and common law principles, the Supreme Court agreed that employees of the defender organizations are "employees" under state law, and, as such, are entitled to be enrolled in the PERS.
Samantha A. v. Dep’t of Soc. & Health Servs.
Samantha A. is a 15-year-old with a wide range of medical maladies. Samantha is unable to perform a many activities necessary for independent living. The Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) determined that Samantha is eligible for 24-hour institutional care because of the extreme nature of her needs. Because Samantha is cared for by a single mother, Samantha qualified for the Medicaid Home and Community Based Waiver Program so that she can receive benefits at home and not be institutionalized. As part of the in-home benefits, Samantha receives Medicaid Personal Care (MPC). DSHS assessed Samantha as needing 90 hours of MPC per month. In 2005, DSHS adopted changes to its assessment formula pertaining to MPC. Under the new rules, Samantha's MPC hours were reduced. Samantha petitioned the Superior Court for review of the DSHS reassessment. The court invalidated some of the DSHS rule changes. DSHS appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the rule changes were valid. The Supreme Court agreed with the lower court, finding the rule changes invalid under the Medicaid laws. The Court affirmed the superior court's decision.