Batterton v. Francis

LOCATION: Eastern District Court of Michigan

DOCKET NO.: 75-1181
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 432 US 416 (1977)
ARGUED: Apr 19, 1977
DECIDED: Jun 20, 1977

C. Christopher Brown - for respondents
Christopher G. Browning, Jr. -
Joel J. Rabin - for petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Batterton v. Francis

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 19, 1977 in Batterton v. Francis

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 20, 1977 in Batterton v. Francis

Warren E. Burger:

The judgments and opinion of the Court in 75-1181, Batterton against Francis will be announced by Mr. Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Well, this comes to us on certiorari to the United States Court Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

The case concerns the cooperative federal state aid to families with dependent children, unemployed fathers program.

Under Section 407 of the Social Security Act, the Secretary of HAW is delegated the power to prescribe standards for determining what constitutes unemployment under that program.

In line with the statute, the Secretary issued a regulation, authorizing participating states within their discretion to exclude from the definition of an unemployed father, one whose unemployment resolves from participation in a labor dispute or who is unemployed by reason of conduct or circumstances which result in disqualification under the State's unemployment compensation law.

The present litigation is a class action on behalf of families who were denied benefits under this program under a Maryland Rule because the father's unemployment resulted from a discharged for a misconduct or involvement in a strike or from having voluntarily quit his job.

The courts below held that the federal regulation was invalid as exceeding the Secretary's statutory authority.

We reverse and we hold that the regulation is a proper exercise of the Secretary's statutory authority and that it is reasonable because the statute expressly delegated to the Secretary the power to prescribe standards.

A reviewing court is not free to set aside the regulation because it would have interpreted the statute in a different manner only if the Secretary exceeds his statutory authority or if the regulation is arbitrary or capricious, or an abuse of discretion or otherwise not in accordance with law may the regulation be struck down.

Here, the Secretary incorporated a widely applied standard for unemployment, an exclusion of those who are out of work is a result of their own conduct, it is inconsistent with the goal of the program namely to aid families of the involuntarily unemployed.

We further hold that this power to provide standard gives the Secretary sufficient flexibility to recognize local options including the option of denying unemployment compensation benefits to participate -- to participants in a labor dispute.

It is true that the congressional purpose was to promote greater uniformity in the application of the program.

That goal, however, can still be met without imposing identical standards on each state.

I'm authorized to save Mr. Justice White has filed a dissenting opinion and is joined therein by Mr. Justice Brennan, Mr. Justice Marshall and Mr. Justice Stevens.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Mr. Justice Blackmun.