Jan. 10, 2013 – The state Department of Children and Families revoked a Milwaukee woman’s child care license in 2010 for crimes committed 22 years ago, under the state’s new caregiver law. But the Wisconsin Supreme Court recently ruled that she’s entitled to a hearing first.
Effective in 2010, Wis. Stat. section 48.685(5)(br), the new caregiver law, bars anyone ever convicted of certain crimes from holding a license to operate a child care center. Disqualifying crimes include “fraudulent activity” involving the federal food stamps benefit program.
However, the new caregiver law does not specifically list the statutes under which Angelia Jamerson pleaded guilty in 1991, although one conviction did involve food stamps. Until the department revoked her license in 2010, she’d been running a child care and preschool center.
An administrative law judge (ALJ) dismissed Jamerson’s appeal of the department’s revocation, concluding that her 1991 convictions proved “fraudulent activity” as a matter of law.
In Jamerson v. Department of Children & Families, 2013 WI 7 (Jan. 10, 2013), the Wisconsin Supreme Court was unanimous in ruling that Jamerson is entitled to a fact-finding hearing first.
“[B]ecause genuine issues of material fact exist, the Administrative Law Judge erred as a matter of law in dismissing Ms. Jamerson’s appeal without a hearing for factual development,” Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson wrote. “Ms. Jameson has the right to a hearing.”
Jameson was convicted under former Wis. Stat. sections 49.12(1) and (6), which punished “false representations” and “fraud” in relation to public assistance benefits.
But the supreme court noted the crux of the issue: “[T]he record does not support an inference that the conviction was based on a violation of a food stamp law or any other public assistance program specifically enumerated in Wis. Stat. §48.685(5)(br).”
The department and the ALJ made this inference because Jamerson was also convicted under a statute, current Wis. Stat. section 49.795(2m), that punishes a person from knowingly failing to update income and asset information for purposes of the federal food stamps program.
But it wasn’t clear to the supreme court that the “false representation” and “fraud” convictions under sections 49.12(1) and (6) were also related to the federal food stamps law.
“[T]he Department and the Administrative Law Judge could not have determined, as a matter of law without further factual development, whether Ms. Jamerson’s conviction was for a predicate offense under the new caregiver law,” the chief justice wrote.
The court remanded for a hearing to determine whether Jamerson’s 1991 convictions actually involved fraudulent activity relating to a program specified in the new caregiver law. Justice Patience Roggensack filed a concurring opinion, joined by Justices Annette Ziegler and Michael Gableman.
Joe Forward is the legal writer for the State Bar of Wisconsin.