Califano v. Boles

LOCATION: United States District Court for the District of Columbia

DOCKET NO.: 78-808
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)

CITATION: 443 US 282 (1979)
ARGUED: Apr 25, 1979
DECIDED: Jun 27, 1979

Herbert Semmel - for appellees
Harriet S. Shapiro - for appellant

Facts of the case


Media for Califano v. Boles

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 25, 1979 in Califano v. Boles

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Califano against Boles.

Harriet S. Shapiro:

Mr. Chief Justice --

Warren E. Burger:

We'll just – we'll wait for the – we'll wait for this crowd to clear.

Harriet S. Shapiro:

I'm sorry.

Warren E. Burger:

Mrs. Shapiro, I think you may proceed when you're ready now.

Harriet S. Shapiro:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case is here on direct appeal by the Government from a decision of the District Court for the Western District of Texas.

This is another case questioning the constitutionality of the Social Security Act.

The particular provision involved here is the marriage requirement for mother's benefits.

The wage earner, Norman W. Boles lived with Margaret Gonzales who is the claimant from 1963 to 1966, but they were never married.

Their son Norman J. Boles was born in 1964.

In 1966, the wage earner left Margaret Gonzales and his child and he married Nancy Boles in 1967.

There were two children born in this marriage and the wage earner died in 1971.

All three children are receiving children's benefits on Norman W. Boles' account.

Mother's benefits are paid to the widow of a wage earner who has an entitled child in her care.

For that reason, Nancy Boles is getting mother's benefits and Margaret Gonzales was denied mother's benefits because she was never married to the wage earner, eventhough her son is receiving benefits and is in her care.

The District Court read this Court's decision in Weinberger versus Wiesenfeld as holding that mother's benefits are for the child to give him the care of his surviving parent.

The court found that Norman J. Boles, the child, had himself been denied mother's benefits because of his illegitimacy.

And that that denial was inconsistent with the equal protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

It therefore declared Section 202 (g) of the Social Security Act, the mother's benefit provision unconstitutional to the extent that it limited benefits to widows and divorced wives.

The court enjoined the Secretary from denying mother's benefits to the named plaintiffs or to the class which consists of all illegitimate children and their mothers who are ineligible for mother's benefits solely because they were never married to the wage earner.

All the children in the class like Norman Boles are getting children's benefits.

Their only claim is that they have been injured by the failure to pay mother's benefits to their mothers with whom they are living.

The true requirements for mother's benefits, they are particularly are important here are first, that they are paid to the widow or to persons that Congress has decided should be treated as if they were widows.

That of course is the marriage requirement.

Second, the widow must have in her care a child getting benefits because of his relationship to the wage earner, that usually of course would be the widow's child, but it doesn't have to be.

It's the child relationship to the wage earner, not to the person that is caring for him that counts.

And the child's legitimacy has nothing to do with the widow's entitlement.

These two requirements serve analytically different purposes.

The first, the marriage requirement defines the class of those who are likely to have been dependent on the wage earner during his life.