Published January, 2009

Martinez v. Astrue, Motion for Summary Adjudication, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California (2009)

This is a motion for summary adjudication in a class action  that challenged the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) application of the “fugitive felon” statute, the provisions of which prohibit the payment of certain public benefits, including Supplemental Security Income (SSI), if the payee is “fleeing to avoid prosecution, or custody or confinement after conviction” of a felony. The action challenged the SSA’s policy of suspending payments of benefits based solely on whether a recipient’s name and either date of birth or social security number matches those of an individual in various federal, state, and local warrant databases, without first confirming that the warrant is still active, involves avoidance or prosecution for a felony, or actually applies to the person whose benefits have been suspended. This is contrary to the plain language of the statute and repeated court rulings that provide that benefits may be suspended only when an individual actually has fled a particular state or locality with the specific intention of avoiding felony prosecution. The motion for summary adjudication seeks to have the court establish that such a policy is illegal on the basis of the statutory language, as well as the findings of other federal courts.

This case prompted a $500 million settlement and change in the SSA's policies. The settlement agreement is available in the Resource Bank here.