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Syllabus by the Court
1. A state agency regulation must be implemented in conformity with the Rules and Regulations Filing Act, K.S.A. 77-415 et seq. The Act requires that proposed regulations go through a public notice and hearing process and then be formally published before
taking effect. If a state agency fails to submit a policy that by content and effect is a regulation to the notice and publication requirements of the Act, the policy is void.
2. Constitutionally protected procedural due process requires that a person be afforded a right to be heard in a meaningful way before being deprived of life, liberty, or property.
3. A state's failure to properly follow its own requirements for enacting administrative regulations or other regulatory rules typically does not itself create a federal constitutional violation.
4. The essence of constitutionally protected procedural due process is notification to an individual of the basis for pending government action impairing or extinguishing his or her protected property right or liberty interest and a meaningful opportunity to explain why that action would be improper or erroneous. That is a fundamental right or protection against government overreaching and aims to prevent a wrongful deprivation.
5. Under the facts of this case, plaintiff failed to establish a constitutional due process violation based on the Kansas Department of Health and Environment's failure to adopt what has been presumed to be a regulation in conformity with the Rules and Regulations Filing Act.
6. Standards for attorney fee awards under 42 U.S.C. § 1988 (2006) are discussed and applied.
Brian M. Vazquez, of Kansas Department of Health & Environment, of Topeka, for appellants.
David P. Calvert, of David P. Calvert, P.A., of Wichita, for appellees.
Before ATCHESON, P.J., GREEN and McANANY, JJ.
This case requires the court to decide a narrow, if seldom litigated, question: If a state fails to properly apply its own procedures for adopting administrative regulations to an agency policy, does that failure create a federal constitutional due process violation in favor of persons affected by the policy? The Sedgwick County District Court ruled that Plaintiff Nicholas Taylor suffered a constitutional injury when Defendant Kansas Department of Health and Environment did not treat a policy applicable to him as part of the State's Medicaid program as a formal administrative regulation. The district court entered judgment against high ranking employees of the agency and enjoined enforcement of the policy. As a general rule, however, that sort of bureaucratic misstep does not amount to a constitutional deprivation. This case presents no exception to the rule. We, therefore, reverse the district court and remand with directions to enter judgment for the defendants, to vacate an award of attorney fees and costs to Taylor, and to otherwise proceed in conformity with this opinion.
FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
Taylor has a rare and debilitating physical condition known as arthrogryposis multiplex congenita that affects his joints and muscles. As a result, Taylor is essentially wheelchair bound and requires assistance with most daily life activities. Taylor, therefore, qualifies for and receives Social Security disability and Medicaid benefits. Despite his condition, Taylor has become a world-class wheelchair tennis player. He regularly travels nationally and internationally from his Wichita home to compete in tournaments and to give motivational speeches. We understand he earns a modest income from those endeavors.
The Department operates what is known as the Working Healthy program that encourages persons receiving disability benefits, such as Taylor, to work as they may be able. Participants pay premiums into the program in exchange for assistance with medical expenses without having to satisfy certain Medicaid restrictions. As a component of the Working Healthy program, the Department maintains a subsidiary program known as Work Opportunities Reward Kansans or WORK that is directly at issue in Taylor's suit. Under ...