Heckler v. Edwards

LOCATION: Clifford Residence

DOCKET NO.: 82-874
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 465 US 870 (1984)
ARGUED: Nov 30, 1983
DECIDED: Mar 21, 1984

John H. Garvey - on behalf of Petitioner
Neal S. Dudovitz - on behalf of Respondents

Facts of the case


Media for Heckler v. Edwards

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 30, 1983 in Heckler v. Edwards

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in Heckler against Edwards.

Mr. Garvey, I think you may proceed whenever you're ready.

John H. Garvey:

Thank you.

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court:

Section 1252 of the Judicial Code provides that any party may appeal to this Court from a decision by a court of the United States holding unconstitutional an act of Congress.

The issue in this case is whether the Government must appeal to this Court in a case where it concedes that the statute is unconstitutional and the only issue is the question of what relief should be provided.

The statute in this case is Section 211(a)(5)(A) of the Social Security Act, which deals with self-employment income from a family business in community property states.

What that section says is that if a family business is not run as a partnership then for purposes of old age, survivors and disability insurance all the income from the business shall be attributed to the earnings account of the husband, unless the wife is able to show that she exercised substantially all the management and control of the business.

In 1980 the Attorney General determined that that presumption made in that section was unconstitutional and informed Congress that he would not defend on appeal a case called Becker against Califano, which had held that section unconstitutional.

Three weeks later Respondent filed this action on behalf of a class of affected wives in community property states.

The Government acknowledged in the district court that the section was unconstitutional and did not defend it.

So the district court shortly entered judgment on the uncontested issue of liability and held the section unconstitutional.

Thereafter and until now, the only issue in this case has been what relief should be provided for that deficiency in the statute.

The Government proposed in the district court that, since the invalid provision was simply an exception to Section 211(a), the general rule applying in the 42 non-community property states, that what the district court should do was what was done throughout the rest of the country.

That is to say, if the family business wasn't run as a partnership then all the income should be attributed to one spouse or the other without the use of any presumption, after a determination of which one was chiefly responsible for running the business.

The district court disagreed and held, among other things, that in community property states the income should be divided between husband and wife according to the amounts of their labor in the business.

The Government appealed to the Court of Appeals, which dismissed in a one-sentence order saying it didn't have jurisdiction because of Section 1252, and the Government then petitioned this Court for a writ of certiorari.

Our position can be summed up briefly in two points: number one, only an appeal from the constitutional issue can bring a case to this Court: number two, the question of relief in this case is not part of the constitutional issue.

Let me begin with the first of those points.

Only an appeal from the holding of unconstitutionality can bring the case to this Court under Section 1252.

It's important to recognize at the outset that Section 1252 is a unique jurisdictional provision.

In that section what Congress did was to pick out from the whole universe of cases that customary go from the district courts to the Court of Appeals a few unique cases which, because of their great importance, were thought to warrant extraordinary treatment and immediate review in this Court.

The extraordinary treatment is, first of all, tat they're within the mandatory appellate jurisdiction of this Court; but in addition, they leapfrog over the Courts of Appeals.

And unlike even cases coming to this Court under Section 1253, they haven't had the benefit of review even by three district judges by getting here.

The reason Congress did this, in the words of the sponsor of the bill which became Section 1252, the reason was this.

The sponsor of the bill said:

"It is ridiculous that the final determination as to the constitutionality of an act of Congress be held in abeyance for two or three years and nobody knows whether or not it is constitutional. "

The House report said, in similar--

Mr. Garvey, do you propose to shift at some point in your argument from the statement of the sponsors to the language of the statute?

John H. Garvey:

--Indeed I do.