Lukhard v. Reed

LOCATION:Massachusetts Citizens for Life

DOCKET NO.: 85-1358
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1986-1987)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 481 US 368 (1987)
ARGUED: Jan 14, 1987
DECIDED: Apr 22, 1987

Glen D. Nager – pro hac vice, respondent Secretary of H&HS in support of petitioner
Jill A. Hanken – on behalf of the respondents
Thomas J. Czelusta – on behalf of the petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Lukhard v. Reed

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – January 14, 1987 in Lukhard v. Reed

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – April 22, 1987 in Lukhard v. Reed

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinions of the Court in two cases, No. 85-1358 Lukhard against Reed and No. 85-6756 Hitchcock against Dugger will be announced by Justice Scalia.

Antonin Scalia:

–Fourth Circuit.

In 1982, Congress amended the statute governing aid to families with the dependent children.

That amendment provided that a family that received a large amount of income would be ineligible for AFDC payments for as long as that income would last if the family spent no more than a state prescribed amount each month.

In response to the amendment, the Virginia Department of Social Services revised its regulations to define various lump sum payments including personal injury awards as income.

It did not however, alter regulations categorizing the proceeds of the sale or conversion of real or personal property including property damage awards as resources rather than income.

Respondents who had received personal injury awards and were rendered ineligible for AFDC payments as a result of Virginia’s revised regulations, brought a class action in Federal District Court.

The District Court granted summary judgment in the class’ favor holding the treating personal injury award as income was inconsistent with the Federal AFDC statute and the treating them differently from property damage awards was irrational.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit affirmed.

We granted certiorari to review that decision which conflicted with the decision of the Seventh Circuit.

In an opinion filed with the clerk today, the Court reversed.

I have written a plurality opinion which has been joined by the Chief Justice and Justices White and Stevens.

We conclude that Virginia’s decision to treat personal injury awards as income is lawful.

The term “income” is not defined in the AFDC statute and it can quite naturally be used to mean any money that comes in.

In which sense it clearly embraces personal injury awards.

Moreover, Virginia’s revised regulations are supported by the deference owed to the conclusion of the Secretary of Health and Human Services that the AFDC statute permits states to treat personal injury award as income.

Finally, it is not irrational for Virginia to treat property damage awards differently from personal injury awards since, unlike personal injury awards, property damage awards generally do not increase the amount of real and personal property held by their recipients.

Justice Blackmun has written an opinion concurring in the judgment.

Justice Powell dissents and an opinion joined by Justices Brennan, Marshall and O’Connor.