Singleton v. Wulff

LOCATION:Ship’s Restaurant

DOCKET NO.: 74-1393
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

CITATION: 428 US 106 (1976)
ARGUED: Mar 23, 1976
DECIDED: Jul 01, 1976

Frank Susman – for respondents
Michael L. Boicourt – for practitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Singleton v. Wulff

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – March 23, 1976 in Singleton v. Wulff

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – July 01, 1976 in Singleton v. Wulff

Harry A. Blackmun:

The last case of the three is Singleton versus Wulff, the number 74-1393.

This comes to us from the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit and it also centers in the State of Missouri.

The issue here however is the constitutionality of a Missouri statute that excludes abortions that are not medically indicated for the purposes for which Medicaid benefits are available to needy persons.

The plaintiffs who are respondents here are two physicians licensed in Missouri and they brought this action for injunctive relief and a declaration of the unconstitutionality of the statute.

The defendant is the Chief of a Bureau of Medical Services of Missouri.

He moved to dismiss the suit on the ground among others that the plaintiffs did not have standing to bring it.

The plaintiff physicians word however that they had provided abortions to needy persons and intended to do so in the future.

And that they were financially affected and affected in their practice by the statute.

The three-judge District Court in Missouri dismissed the complaint for lack of standing and appeal was taken to the Eighth Circuit and that court reversed finding that the respondents did have standing to bring the action and having decided that issue the court went on to consider the case on the merits held that the Missouri statute was in violation of the Equal Protection clause.

In the opinion filed today we hold that the physicians in fact, did have standing to maintain the suit.

We feel they have a sufficiently concrete interest in the outcome to make it a case or controversy subject to the Federal Court’s jurisdiction under Article III of the constitution.

Four of us, a minority feel that the respondent physicians also are proper proponents of the particular rights of their patients on which in part they base their suit.

On the other hand, the Court holds that the Court of Appeal should not have proceeded to resolve the merits of the case.

That court did so even though the defendant who is the petitioner here had not yet filed an answer or other pleading addressed to the merits and did not had an opportunity to present evidence or legal arguments in defense of the statute.

We therefore reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case with directions that it be returned to the District Court.

So that the petition may file an answer, petitioner may file an answer to the complaint and the litigation proceed accordingly in normal course.

All the members of the court joined the opinion so far as parts 1 and 2(a) and 3 are concerned.

So far as part 2(b) is concerned only justices Brennan and White and Marshall joined.

Mr. Justice Stevens has filed a concurring opinion.

Mr. Justice Powell has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part and adjoined therein by the Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Stewart and Mr. Justice Rehnquist.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Justice Blackmun.