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ROBERT W. WETZEL v. COMMONWEALTH PENNSYLVANIA (11/05/82)

decided: November 5, 1982.

ROBERT W. WETZEL, PETITIONER
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, RESPONDENT



Appeal from the Order of the Department of Public Welfare in the case of Appeal of: Robert W. Wetzel, dated January 12, 1981.

COUNSEL

Robert W. Wetzel, petitioner, for himself.

Jason W. Manne, Assistant Counsel, for respondent.

Judges Rogers, MacPhail and Doyle, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge MacPhail.

Author: Macphail

[ 69 Pa. Commw. Page 542]

Robert W. Wetzel (Petitioner) has appealed from the final administrative action of the Department of Public Welfare (DPW) which denied Petitioner's appeal from the action of Keystone Legal Services, Inc. of Clearfield County (Legal Services) denying his request for legal services. We affirm.

On September 30, 1980, Legal Services received a letter from Petitioner requesting legal representation in connection with an attempt to reopen his mother's estate. The request was denied by a Legal Services attorney on the ground that cases involving estate work are not handled by Legal Services in Clearfield County. The Program Administrator for Legal Services subsequently affirmed the attorney's decision. Upon appeal to DPW and following a fair hearing, a hearing examiner concluded that applicable regulations supported the denial of legal representation to Petitioner. Both the Director of the Office of Hearings and Appeals and the Secretary of DPW affirmed. Petitioner subsequently perfected his appeal to this Court.

Petitioner has pursued this appeal without legal counsel. After a careful reading of his brief, we think the essence of Petitioner's argument is that DPW has erred in allowing Legal Services to establish a system of casework priorities, thereby excluding certain categories of cases from coverage. Petitioner contends that applicable federal law does not provide for such a system of priorities. Petitioner also appears to argue that his entitlement to legal representation should not depend on his geographic location within Pennsylvania and that federal law requires that DPW provide for

[ 69 Pa. Commw. Page 543]

    such representation, if not in Clearfield County, then elsewhere.*fn1 We find both of these arguments to be without merit.

In 1980, Legal Services operated as one of the social services funded pursuant to the then effective version of Title XX of the Social Security Act (Act).*fn2 Each state participating in Title XX was required to prepare a comprehensive annual services program plan setting forth information including the services to be provided and the geographic areas in which such services would be made available. The legislative history of the applicable federal law reveals that Title XX was designed to provide maximum freedom to the states to determine which social services should be made available, who would be eligible for those services, the manner in which the services would be provided and any limitations or conditions on the receipt of the services. S. Rep. No. 1356, 93d Cong., 2d Sess., reprinted in 1974 U.S. Code Cong. & Ad. News 8133, 8138. In its comprehensive plan for 1980-81, Pennsylvania chose to include legal services as one of the social services provided. See 10 Pa. B. 2637 (1980). Moreover, Pennsylvania decided that the legal services should be provided on a county basis. Within each county, or geographic area, certain categories of cases were excluded from coverage based on the particular needs and resources available in that county. In Clearfield County, inheritance cases were one of the categories specially excluded from coverage. 10 Pa. B. 2657 (1980).

With regard to the first issue raised by Petitioner, we believe DPW was ...


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