Lewis v. Martin

LOCATION: United States District Court for the Central District of California

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1969-1970)

CITATION: 397 US 552 (1970)
ARGUED: Mar 03, 1970 / Mar 04, 1970
DECIDED: Apr 20, 1970

Facts of the case


Media for Lewis v. Martin

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 04, 1970 (Part 2) in Lewis v. Martin

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 03, 1970 (Part 1) in Lewis v. Martin

Warren E. Burger:

Number 829, Lewis and others against Martin.

Mr. Amsterdam, you may proceed when you're ready.

Anthony G. Amsterdam:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

The basic issues in this welfare case have become somewhat clouded by the promulgation of new state welfare regulations since the beginning of the suit by the enactment of a new state statute since the decision below by the promulgation of proposed regulations under that state statute not yet in effect and by the variety of decisions taken by the parties and the amici in this Court.

For this reason, I think it useful at the outset to describe and to distinguish several different factual situations that is family situations which are represented by the several plaintiffs and the plaintiff's interveners in this case to identify the legal issues presented in each of those situations, and then to describe what is and what is not still an issue in this case.

Now, the appellants in this Court include the individual plaintiffs below, the individual plaintiff interveners below and the classes which they represent.

All of these persons are members of households which are eligible to receive or which claim eligibility to receive welfare benefits under the federally supported AFDC program that is Aid to Families with Dependent Children established by the Social Security Act.

In each case, the family unit which is eligible for such assistance consists of a mother and her natural children.

The children are under both federal and state law, dependent children because their natural father is continually absent from home.

It is that circumstance that is there being dependent children which renders them eligible for assistance if in addition to being dependent, they are also needy and it is that circumstance which requires the determination of the extent of their need for purposes of determining their assistance levels.

Now, in each of these cases, each and all, California has taken account in determining need of financial factors relating to the presence in the household of a man who is not the natural or the adoptive father of the dependent children.

I will come shortly to the legal basis for California's action for the present, it is important simply to know that the varying relations of the male figure to the children and to the mother create three distinct factual situations which have differing legal import.

The first of these is what we would call the stepfather situation, and the stepfather situation is a case in which the man in the house is ceremonially married to the mother.

This is the case of a plaintiff's interveners, the Bell family and the Sims family.

The second situation is what is in the jargon known as the MARS situation.

MARS is an acronym for Man Assuming the Role of Spouse, and this is a situation in which the man is not ceremonially married to the mother and is not the father of any of her children.

The third situation is the so called unmarried father situation.

The unmarried father situation is a case in which the man is not ceremonially married to the mother but he is the father of at least one of her children in the household.

Now, that child would not be the AFDC eligible child ordinarily because having both parents in the house it would be not be dependent.

There are special programs and situations in which he might be but for purposes of these cases, the AFDC child does not include that common child, but the common child is important because of the way California law treats these cases, the matter I will come to shortly.

The first thing I want to look at in all three situations though briefly is how federal law and particularly the federal HEW regulation which applies to this situation that is 45 CFR Section 203.1 treats these cases.

Under Federal law, the three cases are treated exactly the same.

That is to say that in all of them, if there are any actual contributions by the man, the MARS, the stepfather, the unmarried father to the support of the children, to the upkeep of the house; that is considered income to the household, what is known as the FBU Family Budget Unit, for purposes of computing whether or not the family is needy and the extent of the need.

However, no income maybe assumed to be received from any of these three male figures for purposes of determining eligibility as needy or for purposes of determining the extent of the need.

And this is so because under the relevant federal regulation, income maybe assumed to be coming to an eligible AFDC family only, if it is coming to a natural or adoptive parent of the AFDC children, or if it is coming to a stepparent who fulfills four criteria, that he be ceremonially married to the mother, that he be legally obligated to support the child, that that legal obligation be under a state law of general applicability, and that the state law be one which requires stepparents to support their stepchildren to the same extent that natural or adoptive parents are required to support their children.

Potter Stewart:

Now --

Anthony G. Amsterdam:

Now --

Potter Stewart:

-- am I right in understanding that you've just been describing the HEW regulation?

Anthony G. Amsterdam:


Potter Stewart:

Right, right.