Atkins v. Parker

LOCATION: Board of Education of the City of Oklahoma

DOCKET NO.: 83-1660
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 472 US 115 (1985)
ARGUED: Nov 27, 1984
DECIDED: Jun 04, 1985

Samuel A. Alito, Jr. - on behalf of the federal respondents in no. 83-6381 and in support of petitioner in no. 83-1660
Ellen L. Janos - on behalf of the petitioner in No. 83-1660
Steven A. Hitov - on behalf of Parker, et al

Facts of the case


Media for Atkins v. Parker

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 27, 1984 in Atkins v. Parker

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Atkins against Parker and the consolidated case.

Mr. Alito, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this case concerns a 1981 amendment to the Food Stamp Act that slightly reduces benefits for households with earned income.

In order to implement this change in the law, it was not necessary for a state to gather any new information about any recipient or to make any new factual determinations.

Instead, the state merely had to make a small mathematical change in the formula used for computing benefits.

Before the amendment, 20 percent of earned income was disregarded in calculating benefits, and after the amendment 18 percent of earned income was disregarded.

Both of the lower courts below in this case held that the due process clause prohibited Massachusetts from implementing this simple mathematical change without providing advanced notice to all affected recipients explaining to them exactly how their new benefit amounts had been calculated.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Alito, did the Court of Appeals make this constitutional decision before it had treated whether the regulations or the statute might require it?

The Court of Appeals also found that the statute was violated, but it did so only because it believed that Congress would not have required the provision of a constitutionally defective form of notice.

It did not devote any independent analysis to the language of the statute or to the legislative history, and so we believe that the statutory issue is before this Court, and is fairly subsumed by the constitutional question that was raised in the state's petition.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

And you think we should address it, Mr. Alito?

It is an alternative ground--

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

We shouldn't send it back to them?

--You may send it back for them to decide the statutory issue.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

I am suggesting, do you think we ought to do that?

No, I believe this Court ought to decide it.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Ought to decide it.

I don't think the issue has any merit.

In the brief time that--

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

The court's has already decided it, hasn't it, below?

--That's correct.

It has, but in our view it based its holding--

William J. Brennan, Jr.:


--purely on the constitutional question, on which we believe it was wrong.

Byron R. White:

Well, if you send it back now without saying anything, they couldn't say anything but what they have already said.

I assume they would adhere to their decision based on their erroneous view of what the due process clause requires, and in the brief time that is allotted to me this afternoon, I want to argue that in the situation involved in this case, advance notice is not constitutionally necessary.

Counsel for Massachusetts will then assume for the sake of argument that some form of notice is necessary, and will argue that the notice furnished in this case satisfied statutory and regulatory requirements.

Let me make clear at the outset exactly what our submission is.

We acknowledge that the due process clause requires notice and a hearing when a state terminates or reduces benefits based on a factual determination about the recipient.

That is the situation in Goldberg versus Kelly.