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Com. of Pa., Dept. of Public Welfare v. Markiewicz

filed: April 3, 1991.

COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE AND KATHRYN HORANIC
v.
MARK J. MARKIEWICZ, APPELLANT; COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE AND KATHRYN HORANIC V. MARK J. MARKIEWICZ, COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WELFARE, APPELLANT



On Appeal From the United States District Court For the Western District of Pennsylvania; D.C. Civil Action No. 90-00009E.

Stapleton, Hutchinson, and Rosenn, Circuit Judges.

Author: Stapleton

Opinion OF THE COURT

STAPLETON, Circuit Judge

This case presents a question of first impression. Section 654(4)(B) of Title 42 of the United States Code provides limited access to the federal courts for state agencies seeking to obtain or enforce child support orders in the discharge of their obligations under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children Program ("AFDC"). "When [reciprocal] arrangements and other means have proven ineffective, the State may utilize the Federal courts to obtain or enforce court orders for support; . . . ." 42 U.S.C. § 654(4)(B). We must decide whether the Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare ("DPW") has demonstrated that "other means have proven ineffective" in this case so as to establish federal court jurisdiction. The district court dismissed the case for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and we will affirm.

I.

Kathryn Horanic ("Horanic") is a resident of Pennsylvania. On December 31, 1977, in the state of Pennsylvania, she and Mark Markiewicz ("Markiewicz") engaged in sexual relations. Markiewicz, a resident of New Mexico, was visiting family and friends in Pennsylvania at the time. Approximately nine months later, Horanic gave birth to her son, Gregory. Horanic alleges that Markiewicz is her son's father.

Subchapter IV-A of the Social Security Act established AFDC. 42 U.S.C. § 601. AFDC provides funds to state programs giving financial assistance to needy families with dependant children. Any state desiring AFDC money must submit a plan to the Secretary of Health and Human Services ("Secretary") setting forth the manner in which it will administer the funds. 42 U.S.C. § 601. 42 U.S.C. § 602 lists the requisite features of qualifying plans. For example, the plan must provide that each individual applying for aid will assign all support rights to the state. 42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(26)(A).

The state, in turn, must enforce those rights. Title IV-D of the Social Security Act ("Title IV-D") established the Child Support Enforcement Program under which each participating state must create a "IV-D agency" to administer the state's program. The regulations promulgated thereunder set forth the minimum staffing and operational requirements of IV-D agencies. See 45 C.F.R. § 303. One duty of a IV-D agency is to attempt to establish the paternity of any child recipient born out of wedlock and to obtain support payments from the child's father.

Ms. Horanic receives AFDC funds. Horanic and Erie County authorities commenced an action seeking child support from Markiewicz in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas in 1979. When it was determined that Markiewicz was residing in New Mexico, the court ordered that the relevant documents be transmitted to New Mexico pursuant to the provisions of the Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act ("RURESA"). Both New Mexico and Pennsylvania have adopted RURESA. 23 Pa. Cons. Stat. §§ 4501-4540; N.M. Stat. Ann. §§ 40-6-1 to -41.

RURESA seeks to "improve and extend by reciprocal legislation the enforcement of duties of support." RURESA § 1, 9B U.L.A. 394 (1968). The prefatory note explains that the

Act itself creates no duties of family support but leaves this to the legislatures of the several states. The Act is concerned solely with the enforcement of the already existing duties when the person to whom a duty is owed is in one state and the person owing the duty is in another state.

Section 18 of RURESA requires the court in the responding state to docket the case and notify the prosecuting attorney of the action. The prosecuting attorney must prosecute the case diligently. RURESA § 18, 9B U.L.A. 461 (1968).

New Mexico authorities served the complaint on Markiewicz and assigned an assistant attorney general to handle the case. Markiewicz's attorney filed a motion to dismiss and an answer denying ...


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