Heckler v. Turner

LOCATION: United States Courthouse

DOCKET NO.: 83-1097
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 470 US 184 (1985)
ARGUED: Oct 09, 1984
DECIDED: Feb 27, 1985

Carter G. Phillips - on behalf of the petitioner
Mark N. Aaronson - on behalf of the respondents

Facts of the case


Media for Heckler v. Turner

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 09, 1984 in Heckler v. Turner

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Heckler against Turner.

Mr. Phillips, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Carter G. Phillips:

Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this case concerns the proper interpretation of Section 402(a)(7) and (8) of the Social Security Act, which is a provision in the Aid to Families with Dependent Children statute.

Specifically at issue is the proper way to treat mandatory payroll withholdings from salary, primarily income taxes, in determining a working AFDC recipient's eligibility for or level of benefits.

Although the AFDC scheme is no stranger to this Court, in order to understand the narrow legal issue involved here, a brief statutory history may be helpful.

As this Court has recognized, the statute basically embodies the notion of cooperative federalism.

The state determines the level of need, and determines the level of benefits.

But in providing those kinds of benefits to AFDC recipients, the state is obliged to comply with a variety of requirements embodied in Section 402 of the statue.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Mr. Phillips, are you going to tell us the government's view of the new statute?

What do we decide in this case?

Carter G. Phillips:

Well, it seems to me that the new statute has ratified the Secretary's interpretation of the 1981--

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Well, makes gross income certainly for the future, doesn't it?

Carter G. Phillips:

--Yes, Your Honor, and I think it--

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

And is there any dispute as to the past?

Carter G. Phillips:

--I think... well, there is no dispute in my mind that the Congress recognized that the Secretary's interpretation of the structure of the statute has always been correct from 1981 through 1984.

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

Back to my initial question.

Why should we be talking about this case?

Carter G. Phillips:

Well, there is still a substantial amount of controversy with regard to the period--

William J. Brennan, Jr.:

About what?

Carter G. Phillips:

--Subsequent to the enactment in 1981, and before the injunction was issued in this case, there is a claim for retroactive benefits by state AFDC recipients in California.

Byron R. White:

Why shouldn't we just apply the statutory law the way it is now?

The case isn't final yet.

Isn't the usual rule we just apply the law as it presently stands until the case is over?

Carter G. Phillips:

I don't know that that... well, that would be perfectly satisfactory to us, Your Honor.

Byron R. White:

Well, I know, but why aren't you making that argument?

Carter G. Phillips:

Well, it seemed to us somewhat unfair to deprive individuals of their rights.

In fact, Congress had changed the statute, and had intended to do so prospectively.

In our view, Congress meant to do it retrospectively, and therefore it is not an issue.

Byron R. White:

They didn't say it was prospective, did they?

Carter G. Phillips:

No, Your Honor, they did not.