Carter v. Stanton

LOCATION: Circuit Court of Cook County, Juvenile Division

DOCKET NO.: 70-5082
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)

CITATION: 405 US 669 (1972)
ARGUED: Nov 08, 1971
DECIDED: Apr 03, 1972

Jon D. Noland - for appellants
Mark Peden -
Robert W. Geddes - for appellee, Wayne Stanton

Facts of the case


Media for Carter v. Stanton

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 08, 1971 in Carter v. Stanton

Warren E. Burger:

Will hear arguments in number 5082, Carter against Stanton.

Mr. Noland you may proceed.

Jon D. Noland:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

This case is here on direct appeal from a judgment of three-judges District Court for the Southern District of Indiana which dismissed appellants complaint for failure of federal jurisdiction.

The issues involved are jurisdiction of questions pertaining both to the jurisdiction of this Court to hear the appeal under Section 1253 of the judicial code and to the jurisdiction of the three-judge District Court.

The plaintiffs in this action were mothers of dependent children to at the time of filing their complaint in the District Court had been denied either the right to file an application for aid to families with dependent children or had been denied assistance under that program.

Jurisdiction below was founded on Section 1343(3) and (4) of the United States code and the action was brought under Section 1 of the Civil Rights Act of 1871.

Plaintiffs brought the action on their own behalf and as a class action on behalf of other mothers similarly situated.

The Social Security Act defines a dependant child as a needy child who has been deprived of parental care or support by reason of the continued absence from the home of a parent.

Plaintiffs alleged that they were entitled to assistance under this provision because their husbands and the fathers to their children had deserted the home.

Plaintiffs also alleged in their complaint that aid under this provision was denied pursuant to Indiana regulation 2402(b) which is set forth at the bottom of page 5 of appellants brief.

This regulations state when the continued absence is due to desertion or separation.

The absence shall have been continuous for a period of at least six months prior to the date of application for assistance except that under exceptional circumstances of need and where it is determined that the absence of apparent is actual and bonafiding, an application maybe filed and a child maybe considered immediately eligible upon a special finding of the County Department of Welfare.

A three-judge court was convened to hear the plaintiffs allegation that this regulation was not only unconstitutional, but was also contrary to provisions of the Social Security Act.

Warren E. Burger:

Is this a class action?

Jon D. Noland:

Yes it was brought as a class action Your Honor.

Potter Stewart:

The class being parents whose spouses had not been absent for six months or more?

Jon D. Noland:

That is right.

Mothers who had been denied welfare benefits under this regulation because the husband had not been away from the home for a period of six months.

Following the convening of the three-judge court, each of the two appellees, the County Department of Public Welfare and the State Department of Public Welfare filed motions to dismiss the complaint.

These motions were based primarily on two grounds.

One, a failure on the part of the plaintiffs to exhaust their state administrative remedies, and secondly the failure of the complaint to raise substantial constitutional questions.

The three-judge panel then convened a combine hearing both on the motions to dismiss and on the merits of the case.

Evidence was heard from approximately 16 witnesses and at that point the court adjourned the hearing and granted the motions to dismiss.

The court's entry appears at page 210 of the appendix and on page 212 of the entry.

The entry demonstrates that the decision of the court was based one upon the court's finding that each of the plaintiffs had failed to exhaust their state administrative remedies, and secondly, the court held we have examined the pleadings before us and find no substantial federal question involved nor do we find federal jurisdiction under 28 US(c) Section 1343(3) and (4).

It is apparent to the appellants from this entry that the District Court resolved none of the conflicts in testimony which became evident during the course of the hearing.

Rather, it made it so finding that the plaintiffs had failed to exhaust state administrative remedies and then on the basis of the pleadings and solely on the basis of the pleadings, it found that no substantial federal questions were presented for decision.

Before turning to the correctness of the decision of the District Court, the appellee, the State Department of Public Welfare has raised a threshold question in this case pertaining to this Court's jurisdiction under Section 1253 of the judicial code.

As we understand the argument, the appellants and the appellee’s contention is that in failing to find substantial federal question, the three-judge panel in effect dissolved itself and that therefore the final entry should be construed as having been the decision of a single district judge.