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1 N.J.A.R. 68

Essex County Division of Welfare; B., C. v
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Citation: 1 N.J.A.R. 68
Decision Date: 1980
Synopsis: Petitioner appealed from the decision of the local welfare agency reducing her monthly Aid to Families with Dependent Children grant because of her alleged failure to pursue a personal injury claim on behalf of her child. The agency relied on N.J.A.C. 10:81-3.38(b)2. which requires that where a resource (or potential claim) is applicable to a child receiving benefits and the child's parents fail or refuse to cooperate in the liquidation of the resource, the child will be found ineligible for assistance. In this instance, the 'resource' is a personal injury claim petitioner has on behalf of her child who fell on a flight of stairs. The administrative law judge found that while petitioner willfully refused to pursue the personal injury claim and thus failed to cooperate in liquidating a potential resource, the sole reason for petitioner's inaction was that her religious beliefs precluded her from initiating the litigation required to pursue the claim. Thus the judge determined that the case presented the question of whether a county welfare agency may reduce an individual's AFDC grant because she refuses to pursue a personal injury claim based on the tenets of her religion. administrative law judge found that the State had failed to demonstrate the compelling state interest needed to justify the substantial infringement of petitioner's First Amendment rights which would result from requiring her to bring litigation to pursue the claim. Accordingly, the agency's action in reducing the monthly AFDC grant was reversed. Theresa Kyles, Paralegal, (Rutgers Legal Aid Clinic)for Petitioner Lawrence Caprio, Assistant Essex County Counsel for Respondent