Shapiro v. Thompson

PETITIONER: Bernard Shapiro
RESPONDENT: Vivian Marie Thompson
LOCATION: Connecticut Welfare Department

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1967-1969)
LOWER COURT: Federal district court

CITATION: 394 US 618 (1969)
ARGUED: May 01, 1968
REARGUED: Oct 23, 1968 / Oct 24, 1968
DECIDED: Apr 21, 1969

Facts of the case

Thompson was a pregnant, nineteen-year-old mother of one child who applied for assistance under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program in Connecticut after having recently moved there from Massachusetts. Connecticut denied her aid since she did not satisfy the state's one-year residency requirement. This case was decided together with Washington v. Legrant and Reynolds v. Smith. In Washington, three people applied for and were denied AFDC aid on the ground that they had not resided in the District of Columbia for one year immediately preceding the filing of their application In Reynolds, two appellees, Smith and Foster, were denied AFDC aid on the sole ground that they had not been residents of Pennsylvania for at least a year prior to their applications as required by a Pennsylvania Welfare Code.


Does the conditioning of AFDC aid on various residency requirements violate the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause?

Media for Shapiro v. Thompson

Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 23, 1968 in Shapiro v. Thompson
Audio Transcription for Oral Reargument - October 24, 1968 in Shapiro v. Thompson

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - May 01, 1968 in Shapiro v. Thompson

Earl Warren:

Number 813, Bernard Shapiro, Commissioner of Welfare of the State of Connecticut, appellant versus Vivian Thompson.

Mr. Shapiro.

Louis Bernstein:

Mr. Chief Justice and members of the Court.

I'm Louis Bernstein and I respectfully move this Court to permit Mr. Brian Hollander of the Connecticut bar to argue for the respondent in this matter.

Earl Warren:

Thank you, Mr. Bernstein.

Your motion is granted.

Mr. MacGregor.

Francis J. MacGregor:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please this Court.

Before I start, the State of Connecticut has agreed to allot seven minutes of its time to the Assistant Attorney General of the State of Iowa, Mrs. Lorna Williams.

Now, the factual situation in this case is quite simple and I don't think they are particularly in dispute.

Ms. Thompson, the appellee who was receiving aid to dependent children in the State of Massachusetts moved into Connecticut and was refused public assistant solely on the basis of the residency requirements of 17-2d and I think that the only question facing this Court is whether or not a state may pass a reasonable residency requirement in the field of public assistance particularly aid to dependent children, a law that is clearly not racially aimed.

A law that has no permanent effect on the persons aimed at.

A law that has no criminal sanctions and one that involves the spending of state tax raised funds and one actually that encourages new migrants into the State of Connecticut to enter the labor market and parenthetically, if I notice in this last part that the Congress in H.R. 12080 of the Social Security Amendments of 1967 has followed Connecticut's very good lead in this case and their AFDC, Aid to Families of Dependent Children by establishing a work incentive program very similar to the regulations and policy of the State of Connecticut set up and the residency requirement.

I noticed it's called Work Incentive Program probably the nickname for that would be WIP but I wouldn't want to use that connotation in front of the Court when I'm arguing this type of case.


Francis J. MacGregor:

No, it isn't, Your Honor.

It's the -- this is H.R. 12080 Your Honor of the Social Security Amendments of 1967 and actually the law was not passed until, I believe December 15th and I noticed that came out -- was reported out in APWA Washington Report Volume 2 Number 7, dated December 22, 1967.

Now, it was always in my belief that the fundamental and central historical purpose of the Fourteenth Amendment was to protect persons from statutes that were first racially aimed and that seems to be what this Court has dealt with in the last few years and also cases involving acquired property rights.

However, I think that the Fourteenth Amendment in this case has been used to paraphrase Dr. Samuel Jackson as the last refuge of the constitutional bankrupt.

It has been used when the appellees could find no true legal precedent on which to base their decision.

Now, Judge's Smith and Judge Blumenfeld when they wrote their majority opinion in the Thompson case was a vigorous decent from Judge Clary conceded that the purpose of Section 17-2d was to protect the public purse of the State of Connecticut.

A purpose which I always thought was wadable but they didn't went on to indicate that the State of Connecticut had not born the burden of proving that this was justifiable purpose or that the classification was reasonable.

Now, since when does a state bear the burden of proving that their statute is constitutional.

It was stated in that Darlington case every possible presumption is in favor of the validity of the statute and this continues until the contrary is shown beyond the reasonable doubt.

When one looks at the memorandum not only in the Thompson case but in the Harold case and the Smith case, the companion case that to be argued here today, it is plainly apparent that the judges based their decision, however, benevolent and well meaning that it might be on their own personal, social philosophy and then went out and actually looked in vain for any cases that could support --

Thurgood Marshall:

Mr. MacGregor, suppose Connecticut the law and denied welfare aid to redheaded people, you think that has all the constitutionality and everything behind it?

Francis J. MacGregor:

Well, I think the problem --

Thurgood Marshall:

Once you classify, don't you have to justify?

Francis J. MacGregor:

I'm wondering if the burden rests on the state to justify any -- it seems to me in any type of civil matter that the plaintiff bears the burden of proof from the beginning of the case until the end.

Thurgood Marshall:

That's right but the state -- once the state has classified, the state has to justify.