Califano v. Westcott

LOCATION: C and P Telephone Baltimore Headquarters

DOCKET NO.: 78-437
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)

CITATION: 443 US 76 (1979)
ARGUED: Apr 16, 1979
DECIDED: Jun 25, 1979

Henry A. Freedman - for appellees in both cases
Paul W. Johnson - for appellant in No. 78-689
William H. Alsup -

Facts of the case


Media for Califano v. Westcott

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - April 16, 1979 in Califano v. Westcott

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments first this morning in 78-437, Califano against Westcott and the consolidated case.

Mr. Alsup, you may proceed whenever you're ready.

William H. Alsup:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This is a direct appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts.

The District Court held unconstitutional, Section 407 of the Social Security Act that's a provision which extends Aid to Families with Dependent Children, the two-parent families whose father is unemployed.

The District Court held the provision unconstitutional because it does not likewise extends such aid to similarly situated families whose mothers are unemployed.

The Secretary of HEW appeals the holding that that Section is unconstitutional.

John Pratt, Commissioner of Public Welfare and a consolidated appeal appeals only from the remedies selected by the District Court.

The Aid to Families with Dependent Children provides financial assistance to families with needy children.

It's a program under which if a state elects to participate and submits a plan which complies the Section 402 of the Social Security Act, the federal government will participate in funding of the program.

Originally, the program was limited to needy children who where deprived of parental, the support of a parent by virtue of the absence from the home of the parent or a parent or the death of a parent or the incapacity of a parent.

Principally, this was limited to single parent families.

Later in adjunct program, that is the program that we're concerned with today was added.

That program extended AFDC benefits, the two parent families where there was an unemployed father.

Now, that program appears in Section 407 of the Social Security Act, that's 42 U.S.C. 706, I'm sorry 607.

In order for a two-parent family to qualify under that provision, the family must show that the father has a minimum but recent connection with the employment market and that he is unemployed.

The Act does not require that the mother be in a labor market nor does it require that she be unemployed or that she be employed.

In fact, she may be employed and the only effect of her earnings is to reduce the amount of the benefits that are paid to the family.

In this case, the appellees are two families which did not qualify because the father's lack the requisite employment history.

The Act as mentioned requires that there be some recent but minimal connections with the labor market.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

In both cases, the mothers and the appellee family would've qualified under the statute had they have been fathers instead of mothers, correct?

William H. Alsup:

That's correct.

The fathers did not qualify because the Act requires that within one year prior to the date of application, the father have been employed that is earned at least $50.00 in six out of the preceding 13 quarters or it counts in addition to earning of $50.00 per quarter if the father had been enrolled in a training program that would've counted toward the six out of the 13 quarters.

As mentioned, neither Mr. Westcott nor Mr. Westwood satisfied this prerequisite.

And as Justice Stewart points out in both cases, the mothers did satisfy that requirement and they we're unemployed.

Accordingly, they were denied benefit under the program.

These two families then brought this action in the District Court.

On summary judgment the Court held the program was unconstitutional either under the rational basis test or under the substantial connection test.

Byron R. White:

Now, but under what provision of the Constitution?

William H. Alsup:

Under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the equal protection component of that Due Process Clause.