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Perkins v. Mississippi Department of Human Services

Supreme Court of Mississippi

August 21, 2014

CHARLOTTE PERKINS
v.
MISSISSIPPI DEPARTMENT OF HUMAN SERVICES

DATE OF JUDGMENT: 04/05/2013.

MONROE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT, HON. THOMAS J. GARDNER, III, TRIAL JUDGE.

TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: ALEXANDER J. SIMPSON, III, COURTNEY A. SCHLOEMER.

FOR APPELLANT: ALEXANDER J. SIMPSON, III.

FOR APPELLEE: OFFICE OF THE ATTORNEY GENERAL, BY: GRETA D. MACK HARRIS, DENITA N. SMITH.

BEFORE DICKINSON, P.J., PIERCE AND COLEMAN, JJ. WALLER, C.J., DICKINSON AND RANDOLPH, P.JJ., LAMAR, KITCHENS, CHANDLER, KING AND COLEMAN, JJ., CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 671

PIERCE, JUSTICE:

¶1. Charlotte Perkins appeals the Monroe County Circuit Court's decision to dismiss, for lack of jurisdiction, her appeal to the circuit court claiming that the Mississippi Department of Human Services (DHS) wrongly deprived her of receiving " food stamps" and that such deprivation was the result of a DHS hearing in which Perkins was deprived of procedural safeguards. As the circuit court found, no statutory authority creates a right of appeal to the circuit court from an administrative decision by DHS regarding food-stamp qualification(s) or disqualification(s). Accordingly, the circuit court was correct in dismissing the case for lack of jurisdiction. Mississippi caselaw provides, however, that where there is no statutory scheme for appeal from an agency decision and the injured party does not have a full, plain, complete and adequate remedy at law, the chancery court has jurisdiction for judicial review of the agency decision. Accordingly, we reverse this case and remand it with instructions to the circuit court to transfer the case to the Monroe County Chancery Court.

FACTS

¶2. On June 14, 2010, DHS held a hearing to determine if Perkins had committed an Intentional Program Violation (IPV) of the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). At the conclusion of the hearing, the hearing officer determined that Perkins should be disqualified from receiving SNAP benefits for a prescribed period of time.[1] Perkins thereafter filed a " Notice of Appeal" in the Monroe County Circuit Court alleging that her due process rights had been violated. Specifically, Perkins contended that DHS's decision was not supported by clear and convincing evidence as required by federal law and DHS should be enjoined from conducting any further administrative hearings in IPV cases until it demonstrates it is able to conduct such hearings properly, before an impartial hearing officer, with appropriate procedural safeguards in place to protect claimants' due process rights.

¶3. The circuit court issued an order on April 5, 2013, dismissing Perkins's appeal to the circuit court for lack of jurisdiction. The circuit court found that there is no specific statutory authority giving Perkins the right to appeal DHS's decision;

Page 672

thus, the court was without jurisdiction to consider the ...


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