Pashby v. Delia, No. 11-2363

Decided: March 5, 2013

Thirteen North Carolina residents brought suit after a statutory change imposing stricter eligibility requirements for in-home personal care services (“PCS”) eliminated their access to in-home PCS. The residents (“the PCS recipients”) contended that the new restrictions on the PCS program violated the Social Security Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Rehabilitation Act. Additionally, the PCS recipients alleged that the boilerplate termination letters they received did not meet the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process requirements. The district court granted the PCS recipients’ motion for a preliminary injunction and motion for class certification. Delia, Acting Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”), appealed.

On appeal, DHHS contends that: (1) the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction; (2) the district court erred in granting the motion for class certification; (3) the injunction qualifies as a mandatory preliminary injunction which necessitates a heightened standard of review; (4) the PCS recipients failed to make a case for a preliminary injunction; and (5) the district court’s order does not satisfy Rule 65 of the FRCP. The Court of Appeals found that a preliminary injunction was appropriate in this case, but that the district court’s order failed to comply with Rule 65. As such, the Court remanded the case to allow the district court to revise the order.

The Court of Appeals rejected DHHS’ first contention—that the controversy is moot and not ripe for review such that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction—finding that it lacked merit. Next, the Court addressed DHHS’ argument regarding class certification, noting that, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1), it could not review the district court’s class certification decision on appeal unless the class certification issue was inextricably bound up with the injunction. The Court found that the class certification was distinct from the preliminary injunction, and thus the issue was not properly before the Court on appeal. The Court also rejected DHHS’ argument that the injunction qualifies as a mandatory preliminary injunction—which necessitates a heightened standard of review—finding that when the PCS recipients filed their motion for a preliminary injunction, the injunction sought to prohibit implementation of the new policy regarding in-home PCS, and thus was prohibitory rather than mandatory.

The Court of Appeals then turned to DHHS’ argument that the preliminary injunction was improperly granted. The Court found that the district court misapplied the Winter factors, but nonetheless affirmed the court’s judgment in favor of the PCS recipients on the issue, applying a different line of reasoning to find that the pubic interest prong of the Winter test was satisfied. The Court then addressed DHHS’ final argument and agreed that the district court’s order failed to comply with Rule 65. However, the Court decided to remand the case without vacating the order, instead allowing the district court to revise the order to such that it complies with Rule 65.

In summary, the Court of Appeals found that a preliminary injunction was appropriate, but that the district court’s order failed to comply with Rule 65. As such, the Court remanded the case to allow the district court to revise the order.

Judge Agee, in dissent, found the district court’s grant of a preliminary injunction to be an abuse of discretion and would have vacated the district court’s order and remanded for further proceedings.

Full Opinion

– Kassandra Moore

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