The county of San Diego cannot remove nearly 2,000 welfare recipients from a last-resort support program while a trial on the legal issues is conducted, a state appellate court ruled Tuesday.
A three-justice panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal, overruling Superior Court Judge Judith Haller, decided that "the injury to be suffered by the recipients from immediate loss of benefits appears to be considerably greater than the apparent damage suffered by the Board (of Supervisors) resulting from expenditure of money necessary to fund this program."
Hoping to help fill a $30-million budget deficit, the supervisors voted in January to discontinue the $291 monthly payments to 1,940 "employable" adults after three months. The welfare cuts are designed to save the county $6.2 million annually.
Legal Aid attorneys filed a class-action lawsuit contending that the move violated state law and a 1971 Supreme Court decision that prohibits removing a whole class of people from the welfare rolls simply because they are not physically or mentally incapable of working.
Haller, concluding that the county's fiscal plight outweighs the personal suffering recipients would experience from the loss of the payments, refused to block the cuts pending a trial. But Appellate Court Judges Howard B. Wiener, Charles W. Froelich Jr. and Gilbert Nares ruled unanimously Tuesday that Haller "abused (her) discretion" in coming to that judgment.