ACLU Makes Case in Court Challenging Mandatory Drug Tests for TANF Applicants

ORLANDO, Fla.–(ENEWSPF)–September 26, 2011. At a hearing today at the United States courthouse in Orlando, the ACLU of Florida defended the Constitutional rights of Floridians applying for the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program against a new law which requires TANF applicants to submit to a mandatory suspicionless drug test. The judge today heard arguments on two issues: the constitutionality of the drug-testing law, and whether the plaintiff could represent a class.

“We were happy to make our case today that Florida’s new law requiring government searches without suspicion is a violation of basic Constitutional protections and will wait for the Judge’s decision,” stated Maria Kayanan, ACLU of Florida Associate Legal Director who served as lead counsel for the plaintiff in the case. “We’d like to thank the judge for giving us three full hours in the courtroom today, as well as our client, Luis Lebron, for his courage in standing up to an abuse of government power.”

Luis Lebron, the plaintiff in the lawsuit, is a 35-year-old single father, University of Central Florida student, and Navy veteran who applied for temporary assistance to help him take care of his child when his GI benefits expired. Rather than surrender his constitutional protection against suspicionless searches by the government in order to get assistance for his family, Luis decided to challenge the law. He is represented by the ACLU of Florida and the Florida Justice Institute.

The judge today gave the state 14 days to respond on the issue of whether Lebron can represent all TANF applicants as a class.

“The governor and the Legislature sent their lawyers into court today to advance a very startling proposition. They argue that some Floridians, namely poor families with children who qualify for temporary public assistance, are not protected by the Constitution of the United States,” stated ACLU of Florida Executive Director Howard Simon. “This extreme position – that if the state provides assistance to someone it can conduct a privacy-invading physical search – is especially startling coming from a Governor who campaigned to stop government from trampling on the rights of the people.”

Following today’s hearing, there was no immediate indication of when a ruling is expected.