October 21, 2015
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
[Copyrighted Material Omitted]
from United States District Court for the District of
Minnesota - Minneapolis.
Eric Wong, Plaintiff - Appellant: Paul R. Hansmeier, CLASS
JUSTICE PLLC, Minneapolis, MN.
Minnesota Department of Human Services, Emily Johnson Piper,
in her capacity as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department
of Human Services, Defendants - Appellees: Anne Catherine
Fuchs, Scott Hiromi Ikeda, Patricia A. Sonnenberg, Assistant
Attorney General, ATTORNEY GENERAL'S OFFICE, Education
Division, Saint Paul, MN.
Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department,
Rex A. Holzemer, in his capacity as Director of the Hennepin
County Human Services and Public Health Department,
Defendants - Appellees: Toni Ann Beitz, Daniel Kaczor,
HENNEPIN COUNTY ATTORNEY'S OFFICE, Minneapolis, MN.
WOLLMAN, BEAM, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges. BEAM, Circuit
Judge, concurring in part and dissenting in part.
GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.
the Minnesota Department of Human Services denied Eric Wong
" shelter needy" benefits and stated that it would
revoke other benefits that Wong had been receiving, Wong
filed suit in federal court. Wong sought review of the state
agency's decision. In addition, he raised claims under 42
U.S.C. § 1983 and alleged violations of the Americans
with Disabilities Act (" ADA" ) and the
Rehabilitation Act (" RA" ). The district court
dismissed Wong's suit. Wong now appeals. We affirm in
part, vacate in part, and remand for further consideration.
Wong suffers from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a rare genetic
condition typified by joint instability and chronic
musculoskeletal pain. This condition causes frequent partial
dislocation of Wong's shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and
other joints. Wong uses a wheelchair when traveling, and his
disease can cause him to faint while performing tasks that
require him to stand upright. As a result of these and other
symptoms, Wong is highly susceptible to injury and pain from
simple life activities.
began receiving income from the Social Security
Administration on the basis of his disability in 2011.
Shortly thereafter, he applied for Minnesota Supplemental Aid
(" MSA" ). The supplemental aid programs offered by
the state include stipends for medically prescribed diets,
necessary home repairs, certain services, and housing costs.
The Minnesota Department of Human Services supervises
administration of these programs by county agencies. Minn.
Stat. § § 256D.53, 256D.395, subdiv. 2. The
Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department
(" HCHS" ), the agency responsible for
administering the program in Wong's county, initially
denied Wong benefits but later approved some supplemental
aid. Wong continued to petition for additional funds,
including " shelter needy" benefits, an allowance
designed for individuals whose monthly shelter costs exceed
40 percent of gross income. See Minn. Stat. §
256D.44, subdiv. 5(f)(3). HCHS refused his requests. After
several months, HCHS informed Wong that it had closed his
case because his expected net income from social security
exceeded the MSA eligibility limit. Wong filed an
administrative appeal, arguing that HCHS used an erroneous
estimate of his income from social security to calculate his
net income. He also claimed that the state improperly
continued to deny him " shelter needy" benefits.
The parties resolved all issues except for Wong's
eligibility for " shelter needy" benefits prior to
his hearing before the human services judge.
hearing, HCHS argued that Wong was ineligible for "
shelter needy" benefits because he had not undergone the
statutorily prescribed Personal Care Assistance ("
PCA" ) assessment, an in-person evaluation conducted by
a county public health nurse or a certified assessor for the
purpose of determining a person's eligibility for home
and community-based services.
See Minn. Stat.§ 256B.0659, subdivs. 3a, 4.
Wong, in turn, contended that he was eligible despite not
having the PCA assessment because the assessment would be too
dangerous in light of his medical condition. Ultimately, the
human services judge determined that HCHS was correct to deny
Wong benefits because the assessment was mandatory under
Minnesota law. In response to Wong's safety concerns, the
judge concluded that Wong could undergo the assessment with
reasonable accommodations. The human services judge thus
recommended that the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department
of Human Services affirm HCHS's decision to refuse Wong
" shelter needy" benefits unless and until he
received an assessment. The Commissioner adopted this
decision on October 30, 2013.
served the defendants his notice of appeal on November 27,
2013. On December 9, he filed suit in federal district court,
requesting review of the Commissioner's order, asserting
claims under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, and alleging violations
of the ADA and the RA. In his appeal from the
Commissioner's decision, Wong contended that he qualified
for " shelter needy" benefits under Minnesota law
and that HCHS improperly continued to deny aid based on the
Commissioner's erroneous conclusion that his failure to
undergo the allegedly unsafe assessment rendered him
ineligible. Wong also argued that HCHS and DHS violated the
ADA and RA by unlawfully excluding him from Minnesota's
benefit program as a result of his inability to complete a
PCA assessment. Under § 1983, Wong alleged that the
defendants denied him the procedural due process right to
notice and a meaningful opportunity to be heard. Finally,
Wong asserted that the agencies denied him equal protection
under the law. The district court dismissed the complaint
with prejudice, holding that (1) the court lacked
jurisdiction to review directly the appeal
from the Commissioner's order, (2) Wong's appeal from
the Commissioner's decision was untimely, (3) Wong was
precluded from bringing his claims under the ADA and RA
because the human services judge considered the same set of
facts in approving the denial of benefits, and (4) Wong
failed to state a due process or equal protection claim. Wong
review de novo the grant of a motion to dismiss
based on lack of jurisdiction. Deuser v. Vecera, 139
F.3d 1190, 1191 (8th Cir. 1998). The same standard applies to
dismissals under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6)
based on a plaintiff's failure to state a claim.
Harris v. St. Louis Police Dep't, 164 F.3d 1085,
1086 (8th Cir. 1998). In reviewing an appeal from a grant of
a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6), " we construe
the complaint in the light most favorable to the nonmoving
party." Ritchie v. St. Louis Jewish Light, 630
F.3d 713, 715-16 (8th Cir. 2011) (quoting Carton v. Gen.
Motors Acceptance Corp., 611 F.3d 451, 454 (8th Cir.
2010). " To survive a motion to dismiss, the factual
allegations in a complaint, assumed true, must suffice to
state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face."
Id. at 716 (quoting Northstar Indus., Inc. v.
Merrill Lynch & Co., 576 F.3d 827, 832 (8th Cir. 2009).
" We assess plausibility considering only the materials
that are necessarily embraced by the pleadings and exhibits
attached to the complaint, and draw[ing] on [our own]
judicial experience and common sense." Whitney v.
Guys, Inc., 700 F.3d 1118, 1128 (8th Cir. 2012)
(alterations in original) (internal citations omitted).
begin with the court's decision dismissing for lack of
jurisdiction Wong's appeal from the Commissioner's
order. When a federal district court has original
jurisdiction over a civil action, the court may exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over all state-law " claims
that are so related to claims in the action within such
original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or
controversy under Article III of the United States
Constitution." 28 U.S.C. § 1367(a). Here, the
district court determined that the appeal from the
Commissioner's decision arose from the " same set of
facts" as Wong's ADA and RA claims. Nevertheless,
the court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over the
appeal from the Commissioner's order for several reasons.
We address each reason in turn, and we conclude that the
court erred by finding that it was barred from exercising
supplemental jurisdiction over Wong's state-law claim.
we reject the court's conclusion that Wong's appeal
from the Commissioner's decision was untimely because
Wong did not file notice and proof of service with the court
until December 9, 2013, more than thirty days after the
Commissioner issued the order. This conclusion ignores the
text of the relevant filing statute--a statute that the
parties agree governs the timeliness of Wong's appeal,
even to a federal district court. Minnesota law states that
an aggrieved party may appeal from a Commissioner's
by serving a written copy of a notice of appeal upon the
commissioner and any adverse party of record within 30 days
after the date the commissioner issued the order, the amended
order, or order affirming the original order, and by filing
the original notice and ...