Dandridge v. Williams

PETITIONER: Edmund P. Dandridge, Chairman of the Maryland State Board of Public Welfare
RESPONDENT: Linda Williams et al.
LOCATION: Maryland Dept. of Human Resources

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1969-1970)

CITATION: 397 US 471 (1970)
ARGUED: Dec 09, 1969
DECIDED: Apr 06, 1970

Facts of the case

The Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, established by the Social Security Act of 1935 and jointly funded by the state and federal governments, provides financial assistance to children of families with little or no income. Under the program, each state computes a "standard of need" for each family. In Maryland, the standard of need increased with each additional member of the family, but became incrementally smaller, with an upper limit of $250 per month. Linda Williams, a single mother, and Junius and Jeanette Gary, husband and wife, were Baltimore residents and parents of eight children each. They objected to Maryland's means of calculating standard of need on the ground that it discriminated against larger families, in violation of the Equal Protection Clause. They also argued that the calculation conflicted with the stated purpose of the program as laid out by the Social Security Act. They filed suit against Edmund P. Dandridge, Chairman of the Maryland State Board of Public Welfare, and several other state officials. A U.S. District Court originally ruled the Maryland regulation violated both the Social Security Act and the Equal Protection Clause. On reconsideration, the court altered its ruling and based its judgment entirely on constitutional grounds but nonetheless struck down the provision.


Did the Maryland mechanism for computing standard of need violate either the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment or the Social Security Act of 1935?

Media for Dandridge v. Williams

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 09, 1969 in Dandridge v. Williams

Warren E. Burger:

Number 131, Dandridge against Williams.

You may proceed whenever you're ready Mr. Liebmann.

George W. Liebmann:

Thank you, Your Honor.

The Court please.

This case involves the validity of a Maryland regulation.

Regulation of the State Board of Social Services which has been in a fact in varying forms since 1947.

Which limits the total benefits payable to single family under the program to a families with dependent children $250.00 per month subject to certain exceptions none of which are here pertinent.

This regulation has either been in a fact or been under consideration.

Since the inception of state wide need standards under the AFDC program in Maryland in 1944.

Their appears at page 116 of the record extract, a document generated of the time.

It was first considered imposing state wide “need standards” and the last paragraph of that document indicates that the State Board will be considering the question of whether the regulation should permit the setting of a maximum amount above which no grant will go, that appears at page 119 of the record aspect.

Subsequently in 1947, the first of this long serious maximum grant regulations was promulgate.

There are extensive materials in the record here which relate to the considerations of which entered into the promulgation of this regulation.

The materials in question minutes of State Board meetings and such appear at pages 127 through 147 of the record abstract.

I will not undertake a detailed summary of these materials here.

Their also appears at page 165 of the record abstract.

The report of an unofficial committee of the body known as the Maryland Commission on Governmentally Efficiency in Economy in 1948 which shares the good deal of light on the thinking which entered into the promulgation of these maximum grant regulations beginning in 1947.

Basically the thought behind the regulation, i think it's summed up in an affidavit of one of the veteran officials of the State Department of Social Services, an affidavit which appears at page 194 of the record abstract.

And that affidavit states, it is my recollection that a maximum grant regulation has been in a fact in Maryland since approximately the time of inception of state wide “need standards” in 1944.

It is also my recollection that these maximum grant regulations consist simply have received federal approval.

I also recall, that one factor giving rise to these regulations was the strong feeling on the part of many county boards.

Particularly during the period following adoption of state wide “need standards” in 1944 that public assistants' payment shall not -- should not exceed the earnings of the head of a family when all for assistance and that the income of a public assistant recipient should not exceed that of his employed neighbors.

I recall that at various times during the early years following the introduction of the maximum grant regulation.

The State Department of Public Welfare secured information as to way two levels from the state employment service that the information now secured with utilized in establishing maximum grant levels.

Now, the Maryland regulation is innate, it finds -- there are similar regulations in some 20 out of a States.

Potter Stewart:

Through these two access, one on page of 119 and the other on page 194 indicate there are two quite disparate foundations for this maximum.

One being the matter of the sufficiency of funds available, that's on 119; And the other quite a different one and that is a matter of policy.

So, it's not to have people on welfare have a hiring from the people who were against the employer of work.

Is that, do I understand that correctly?

George W. Liebmann:

I think Your Honor, that's correct in one sense.