D.F. WALSH, P.J.
Defendant Wayne County Department of Social Services appeals from the March 20, 1986, order of the Wayne Circuit Court granting summary judgment in favor of plaintiff, the law firm of Pomann, Callanan & Sofen, P.C., in the amount of $2,787.65. We reverse and enter summary disposition for defendant.
Plaintiff, through Evan H. Callanan, Jr., represented Ethel Christian before the Social Security Administration following Christian's application for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits under Title XVI of the Social Security Act. 42 USC 1381 et seq. In a December 15, 1983, notice, Ms. Christian was informed that she was eligible to receive continuing monthly SSI benefits. The award was retroactive to July, 1981. Her first SSI check, representing past-due benefits in the amount of $8,814.20, was sent directly to defendant so that defendant could be reimbursed for the general assistance funds it had paid to Ms. Christian during the pendency of her SSI application. Ms. Christian had previously agreed to this procedure.
On April 17, 1984, the Social Security Administration authorized Mr. Callanan to charge Ms. Christian $2,950 for services he rendered on her
On April 19, 1985, plaintiff law firm commenced this action, seeking its fee from defendant.
In its answer and motion for summary disposition, defendant claimed that the circuit court lacked subject matter jurisdiction. MCR 2.116(C)(4). Exclusive jurisdiction, according to defendant, lay in the Court of Claims. Defendant also argued that plaintiff had failed to state a claim upon which relief could be granted. See MCR 2.116(C)(8).
Plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment, claiming that there was no genuine issue of fact
The circuit court disagreed with defendant on both the jurisdiction and substantive issues, ruling that, in the exercise of "its equitable powers to secure payment for Plaintiff from" the SSI award which had been sent directly to defendant, summary judgment was granted to plaintiff in the amount of $2,950, less the $162.35 which, according to the Social Security Administration, had been withheld. We reverse.
Defendant argues that exclusive jurisdiction over plaintiff's complaint lay in the Court of Claims.
The subject matter jurisdiction of the Court of Claims is defined entirely by statute. Littsey v Bd of Governors of Wayne State University, 108 Mich.App. 406, 412; 310 N.W.2d 399 (1981), lv den 413 Mich. 882 (1982); Rangel v University of Michigan, 157 Mich.App. 563; 403 N.W.2d 836 (1987), lv den 428 Mich. 907 (1987).
The Court of Claims has exclusive jurisdiction:
The Court of Claims has concurrent jurisdiction of any demand for equitable relief which is ancillary
In this case, review of plaintiff's complaint discloses that, notwithstanding the equitable theories advanced, its claim is one for money damages. Plaintiff bases its claim both on Ms. Christian's agreement to pay the authorized attorney fee and on the alleged unjust enrichment of defendant. This latter theory sounds in quasi-contract, or contract implied-in-law, Moll v Wayne Co, 332 Mich. 274, 278-279; 50 N.W.2d 881 (1952), overruled on other grounds Brown v Dep't of Military Affairs, 386 Mich. 194, 201; 191 N.W.2d 347 (1971), cert den 405 U.S. 990; 92 S.Ct. 1256; 31 L Ed 2d 457 (1972); Hollowell v Career Decisions, Inc, 100 Mich.App. 561, 570; 298 N.W.2d 915 (1980). Plaintiff's claim is thus a claim for money damages ex contractu and was within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Court of Claims.
In the interest of judicial economy, we also address defendant's remaining argument that plaintiff did not state a claim upon which relief could be granted.
Incorporated into Title XVI of the Social Security Act, 42 USC 1383(d)(1), is § 407(a) of the act, which provides:
In Kerlinsky v Massachusetts, 17 Mass App 501; 459 N.E.2d 1240 (1984), the plaintiff, an attorney who had represented two persons in their successful pursuit of SSI benefits, sued the State Department of Public Welfare asserting an attorney's lien. As in the instant case, the claimant's initial SSI checks had been sent by the Social Security Administration directly to the state pursuant to the interim assistance reimbursement program. 42 USC 1383(g). Summary judgment was entered for the state and the attorney appealed. After reviewing 20 CFR 416.1500 et seq., see ns 2 and 3, supra, the Massachusetts Court of Appeals turned to 42 USC 407 and concluded:
Under similar facts, the California Court of Appeals affirmed a judgment denying an attorney's claim for fees against the county in Neal v Stanislaus County, 141 Cal.App.3d 534; 190 Cal.Rptr. 324 (1983). Rejecting the attorney's unjust enrichment/common fund argument, the Neal court found "no contractual relation or overriding equitable rationale of unfairness to plaintiff which supports an allowance of fees." 141 Cal.App.3d 539. The court relied in part on this Court's analysis of the interim assistance reimbursement program in Inman v Dep't of Social Services, 98 Mich.App. 266, 271; 296 N.W.2d 232 (1980):
See also McCarthy v Secretary of Health & Human Services, 793 F.2d 741 (CA 6, 1986), where the plaintiff, an attorney who successfully represented two SSI claimants, challenged the interim assistance reimbursement procedures, arguing that the Secretary of Health and Human Services should have deducted his attorney fees from the SSI past-due benefit awards prior to reimbursing the Michigan Department of Social Services. The district court agreed. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, refusing to extend to Title XVI the Title II provision for withholding of attorney fees. 42 USC 406. Acknowledging the sound policy of insuring adequate representation of SSI claimants, the court found no congressional intent to allow the withholding of attorney fees from SSI awards. The court found support for its holding in
Contra Galbreath v Bowen, 799 F.2d 370 (CA 8, 1986), cert gtd ___ US ___; 107 S.Ct. 1970; 95 L Ed 2d 811 (1987).
We recognize that it may be in defendant's interest that attorneys represent SSI claimants who receive interim state assistance. See Kerlinsky v Massachusetts, supra, 459 N.E.2d 1242. We are nonetheless persuaded that plaintiff has not stated a claim against defendant upon which relief can be granted. SSI benefits are not subject to legal process of any kind. 42 USC 407(a). The procedures followed by defendant in this case complied with the congressional mandate. 42 USC 1383(g). We agree with the conclusion of the California Court of Appeals that alteration of those procedures to accommodate attorneys who represent SSI claimants is a legislative, rather than judicial, function. Neal v Stanislaus County, supra, 141 Cal.App.3d 540.
WAHLS, J., concurred.
J.R. GIDDINGS, J. (concurring in part and dissenting in part).
I concur in the determination that this case properly belongs in the Court of Claims, and, therefore, summary judgment must be granted in favor of defendant. However, I do not agree that plaintiff has failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.