EUPHREM MANIRAKIZA et al.
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
Argued: November 16, 2017
Melissa A. Hewey, Esq., David M. Kallin, Esq. and Amy K.
Olfene, Esq. (orally), Drummond Woodsum, Portland, and Robyn
Merrill, Esq., Maine Equal Justice Partners, Augusta, for
appellants Euphrem Manirakiza and Fatima Nkembi.
T. Mills, Attorney General, and Thomas J. Quinn, Asst. Atty.
Gen. (orally), Office of the Attorney General, Augusta, for
appellee Department of Health and Human Services.
SAUFLEY, C.J., and ALEXANDER, MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, and
Euphrem Manirakiza appeals from the judgment entered by the
Superior Court (Kennebec County, Murphy, J.)
upholding the final agency decision of the Department of
Health and Human Services denying Manirakiza's
application for food supplement benefits. Because we
conclude that the temporal and fiscal limitations contained
in P.L. 2013, ch. 368, § 00-14 apply only to the fiscal
years ending June 30, 2013, June 30, 2014, and June 30, 2015,
and not beyond June 30, 2015, we vacate the Superior
The following undisputed facts are taken from the hearing
officer's recommended decision, see Brown v.
Dep't of Health and Human Servs., 2006 ME 63, ¶
2, 898 A.2d 387, and the procedural facts are drawn from the
trial court record.
Manirakiza and his family arrived in the United States in
2014. In August of 2015, after Manirakiza and his wife
received Employment Authorization Documents, Manirakiza
applied for food assistance for his household pursuant to 22
M.R.S. § 3104-A(1)(D) (2017) (Paragraph D). Title 22
M.R.S. § 3104-A limits the categories of legal
noncitizens who are eligible to receive food assistance, and
Paragraph D establishes that noncitizens who are unemployed
but who have "obtained proper work documentation"
are eligible to receive the benefit. See 22 M.R.S.
§ 3104-A(1)(D). Although certain members of
Manirakiza's family were eligible for benefits pursuant
to Paragraph D, the Department denied Manirakiza's
application. After an administrative hearing, the hearing
officer found that the Department was correct when it denied
Manirakiza's application based on language in the public
law that is not present within the statutory text, which
contained a fiscal limitation-$261, 384-as well as a temporal
limitation-June 30, 2015-on the availability of funding for
benefits for persons otherwise eligible under Paragraph D.
See P.L. 2013, ch. 368, § 00-14 (Section
00-14). The Commissioner accepted the findings of fact and
recommendation of the hearing officer that the Department
correctly denied the application for food assistance pursuant
to Paragraph D and Section 00-14.
To resolve the statutory interpretation issue, namely how the
limitations within Section 00-14 affected the plain language
of Paragraph D, Manirakiza appealed to the Superior Court.
See M.R. Civ. P. 8OC; see also 5 M.R.S.
§ 11001 (2017). That petition and complaint included
four counts: Count I alleged that the Department erred when
it found that Manirakiza was not entitled to food assistance
under Paragraph D; Count II requested that the court certify
the action as a class action and, pursuant to 5 M.R.S. §
8058 (2017), requested judicial review of the Department rule
interpreting Paragraph D, 17 C.M.R. 10 144 301-14 §
FS-111-2 (2013); Count III sought a declaratory judgment; and
Count IV sought injunctive relief. The Department filed
oppositions to all counts and a motion to dismiss the
independent claims, Counts II and III, as duplicative.
On June 28, 2016, the court denied Manirakiza's motion to
certify the class and granted the Department's motion to
dismiss the independent claims as duplicative. In order to
determine whether Manirakiza was likely to succeed on the
merits, the court also requested memoranda of law concerning
the interpretation of Paragraph D. After receiving further
argument on that issue, in an order dated January 15, 2017,
the court denied Manirakiza's motion for a preliminary
injunction, determining that Manirakiza had failed to
demonstrate he was more likely than not to succeed on the
merits. After the denial of the preliminary injunction, the
parties agreed that the record was complete, that it was
unnecessary to conduct further discovery, and that it was
unnecessary to provide additional briefing or argument. On
February 28, 2017, upon those agreements by the parties, the
court entered final judgment in favor of the Department,
upholding the Department's statutory interpretation of
Paragraph D and the resulting denial of Manirakiza's
application for food assistance. Manirakiza timely appealed
to us. See 14 M.R.S. § 1851 (2017); M.R. App.
P. 2 (Tower 2016).
On appeal, Manirakiza contends that the court erred by (1)
entering final judgment in favor of the Department on the
statutory interpretation issue, effectively determining that
Paragraph D also contained the temporal and fiscal
limitations of Section 00-14, and that those limitations were
effective beyond the fiscal years ending June 30, 2013, June
30, 2014, and June 30, 2015; (2) denying his motion for class