389 U.S. 416 (1967), 629, Damico v. California

Docket NºNo. 629, Misc.
Citation389 U.S. 416, 88 S.Ct. 526, 19 L.Ed.2d 647
Party NameDamico v. California
Case DateDecember 18, 1967
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 416

389 U.S. 416 (1967)

88 S.Ct. 526, 19 L.Ed.2d 647

Damico

v.

California

No. 629, Misc.

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 18, 1967

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF CALIFORNIA

Syllabus

Appellants' suit under the Civil Rights Act, challenging the California welfare law and regulations as unconstitutional, was dismissed by a three-judge District Court for failure "to exhaust adequate administrative remedies."

Held: One of the Act's underlying purpose was "to provide a remedy in the federal courts supplementary to any remedy any State might have," and "relief under the Act may not be defeated because relief was not sought under state law which provided [an administrative] remedy." McNeese v. Board of Education, 373 U.S. 668.

Reversed and remanded.

Per curiam opinion.

PER CURIAM.

The motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis is granted.

Appellants, welfare claimants under California Welfare and Institutions Code §§ 11250, 11254, and regulation C-161.20 thereunder, sought damages, a declaratory judgment of unconstitutionality, and temporary and permanent injunctive relief in this suit under the Civil Rights Act, 42 U.S.C. § 1983, 28 U.S.C. § 1343. Their complaint alleges that the statute and regulation are discriminatory and that the appellees, in administering them and in applying them to appellants, deprived appellant of equal rights secured by the United States Constitution. The three-judge District Court dismissed the complaint solely because "it appear[ed] to the Court

Page 417

that all of the plaintiffs [had] failed to exhaust adequate administrative remedies." This was error. In McNeese v Board of Education, 373 U.S. 668, noting that one of the purposes underlying the Civil Rights Act was "to provide a remedy in the federal courts supplementary to any remedy any State might have," id. at 672, we held that

relief under the Civil Rights Act may not be defeated because relief was not first sought under state law which provided [an administrative] remedy,

id. at 671. [88 S.Ct. 527] See Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 180-183. We intimate no view upon the merits of appellants' allegations, nor upon the other grounds not passed upon by the District Court.

The judgment of the District Court for the Northern District of California is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.

It is so ordered.

HARLAN, J., dissenting

MR. JUSTICE HARLAN, dissenting;

California's Aid to Families with Dependent Children program provides welfare assistance to mothers and children rendered destitute through desertion by or separation from the fathers of the children. The law requires that, unless a suit for divorce has been filed, the desertion or separation be of at least three months' duration before AFDC aid will be granted.

Appellants were informed by a social worker that, no suit for divorce having been filed, they could not receive AFDC aid before the end of the three-month period; they then brought this suit for a declaration that the three-month requirement violated the Federal Constitution. The District Court, without reaching the question whether it should "abstain" pending appropriate state proceedings for relief, and without reaching the merits, dismissed on the ground that the plaintiffs had

Page 418

failed to exhaust "adequate administrative remedies." This Court, without.plenary consideration and without stating its reasons, now reverses the District Court's dismissal, citing McNeese v. Board of Education, 373 U.S. 668. In McNeese, the Court held that Negro...

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