Pena Martinez et al v. US Department of Health and Human Services (Congress cannot discriminate when handing out welfare solely due to the recipient residing in a United States Territory)

Link is to FINDINGS OF FACT, RULINGS OF LAW, AND ORDER Signed by Judge William G. Young on 8/3/2020. (Young is a Judge with the District of Massachusetts, but was sitting by designation with the District of Puerto Rico.)

The above decision is 70 pages long.


For the foregoing reasons, judgment shall enter for the Plaintiffs on all counts. This Court GRANTS the Plaintiffs’ request for declaratory and injunctive relief, and now provides the following remedy:

  1. The Court declares that it is unconstitutional to deny the Plaintiffs, as well as all otherwise eligible individuals, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Medicare Part D Low-Income Subsidy (LIS) benefits solely due to their residency in Puerto Rico.

  2. The Court enjoins the Government from enforcing the unconstitutional provisions and implementing regulations of the SSI, SNAP, and LIS programs, insofar as they exclude residents of Puerto Rico, against the Plaintiffs and all similarly situated applicants residing in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

  3. The Court grants the Government’s request for a 60-day administrative stay of the injunction, except as to the nine named Plaintiffs in this case.

This is an epic decision and will have a massive impact if it is upheld on appeal. The Judge ruled that there is not rational basis to deprive United States Citizens of the benefits of welfare, just because they happen to reside in a Territory.

I think this decision has a good chance to survive appeal in the First Circuit. It won’t make it to the Supreme Court until the October 2021 Term at the earliest.

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