394 U.S. 618 (1969), 9, Shapiro v. Thompson

Docket Nº:No. 9
Citation:394 U.S. 618, 89 S.Ct. 1322, 22 L.Ed.2d 600
Party Name:Shapiro v. Thompson
Case Date:April 21, 1969
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 618

394 U.S. 618 (1969)

89 S.Ct. 1322, 22 L.Ed.2d 600




No. 9

United States Supreme Court

April 21, 1969

Argued May 1, 1968

Reargued October 23-24, 1968




These appeals are from decisions of three-judge District Courts holding unconstitutional Connecticut, Pennsylvania, or District of Columbia statutory provisions which deny welfare assistance to persons who are residents and meet all other eligibility requirements except that they have not resided within the jurisdiction for at least a year immediately preceding their applications for assistance. Appellees' main contention on reargument is that the prohibition of benefits to residents of less than one year creates a classification which constitutes an invidious discrimination denying them equal protection of the laws. Appellants argue that the waiting period is needed to preserve the fiscal integrity of their public assistance programs, as persons who require welfare assistance during their first year of residence are likely to become continuing burdens on welfare programs. Appellants also seek to justify the classification as a permissible attempt to discourage indigents from entering a State solely to obtain larger benefits, and to distinguish between new and old residents on the basis of the tax contributions they have made to the community. Certain appellants rely in addition on the following administrative and related governmental objectives: facilitating the planning of welfare budgets, providing an objective test of residency, minimizing the opportunity for recipients fraudulently to receive payments from more than one jurisdiction, and encouraging early entry of new residents into the labor force. Connecticut and Pennsylvania also argue that Congress approved the imposition of the one-year requirement in § 402(b) of the Social Security Act.


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1. The statutory prohibition of benefits to residents of less than a year creates a classification which denies equal protection of the laws because the interests allegedly served by the classification either may not constitutionally be promoted by government or are not compelling governmental interests. P. 627.

2. Since the Constitution guarantees the right of interstate movement, the purpose of deterring the migration of indigents into a State is impermissible, and cannot serve to justify the classification created by the one-year waiting period. Pp. 629-631.

3. A State may no more try to fence out those indigents who seek higher welfare payments than it may try to fence out indigents generally. Pp. 631-632.

4. The classification may not be sustained as an attempt to distinguish between new and old residents on the basis of the contribution they have made to the community through the payment of taxes because the Equal Protection Clause prohibits the States from apportioning benefits or services on the basis of the past tax contributions of its citizens. Pp. 632-633.

5. In moving from jurisdiction to jurisdiction appellees were exercising a constitutional right, and any classification which penalizes the exercise of that right, unless shown to be necessary to promote a compelling governmental interest, is unconstitutional. P. 634.

6. Appellants do not use and have no need to use the one-year requirement for the administrative and governmental purposes suggested, and under the standard of a compelling state interest, that requirement clearly violates the Equal Protection Clause. Pp. 634-63.

7. Section 402(b) of the Social Security Act does not render the waiting period requirements constitutional. Pp. 638-641.

(a) That section, on its face, does not approve, much less prescribe, a one-year requirement, and the legislative history reveals that Congress' purpose was to curb hardships resulting from excessive residence requirements, and not to approve or prescribe any waiting period. Pp. 639-610.

(b) Assuming, arguendo, that Congress did approve the use of a one-year waiting period, it is the responsive State legislation, and not § 402(b), which infringes constitutional rights. P. 641.

(c) If the constitutionality of § 402(b) were at issue, that provision, insofar as it permits the one-year waiting period, would be unconstitutional, as Congress may not authorize the States to violate the Equal Protection Clause. P. 641.

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8. The waiting period requirement in the District of Columbia Code, adopted by Congress as an exercise of federal power, is an unconstitutional discrimination which violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 641-642.

No. 9, 270 F.Supp. 331; No. 33, 279 F.Supp. 22, and No. 34, 277 F.Supp. 65, affirmed.

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BRENNAN, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

These three appeals were restored to the calendar for reargument. 392 U.S. 920 (1968). Each is an appeal from a decision of a three-judge District Court holding

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unconstitutional a State or District of Columbia statutory provision which denies welfare assistance to residents of the State or District who have not resided within their jurisdictions for at least one year immediately preceding their applications for such assistance.1 We affirm the judgments of the District Courts in the [89 S.Ct. 1325] three cases.


In No. 9, the Connecticut Welfare Department invoked § 17-2d of the Connecticut General Statutes2 to

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deny the application of appellee Vivian Marie Thompson for assistance under the program for Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). She was a 19-year-old unwed mother of one child and pregnant with her second child when she changed her residence in June, 1966, from Dorchester, Massachusetts, to Hartford, Connecticut, to live with her mother, a Hartford resident. She moved to her own apartment in Hartford in August, 1966, when her mother was no longer able to support her and her infant son. Because of her pregnancy, she was unable to work or enter a work training program. Her application for AFDC assistance, filed in August, was denied in November solely on the ground that, as required by § 17-2d she had not lived in the State for a year before her application was filed. She brought this action in the District Court for the District of Connecticut, where a three-judge court, one judge dissenting, declared § 17-2d unconstitutional. 270 F.Supp. 331 (1967). The majority held that the waiting period requirement is unconstitutional because it "has a chilling effect on the right to travel." Id. at 336. The majority also held that the provision was a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because the denial of relief to those resident in the State for less than a year is not based on any permissible purpose, but is solely designed, as "Connecticut states quite frankly," "to protect its fisc by discouraging entry of those who come needing relief." Id. at 336-337. We noted probable jurisdiction. 389 U.S. 1032 (1968).

In No. 33, there are four appellees. Three of them -- appellees Harrell, Brown, and Legrant -- applied for and were denied AFDC aid. The fourth, appellee Barley, applied for and was denied benefits under the program for Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disabled. The denial in each case was on the ground that the applicant had not resided in the District of Columbia for one year

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immediately preceding the filing of her application, as required by § 3-203 of the District of Columbia Code.3

[89 S.Ct. 1326] Appellee Minnie Harrell, now deceased, had moved with her three children from New York to Washington in September, 1966. She suffered from cancer, and moved to be near members of her family who lived in Washington.

Appellee Barley, a former resident of the District of Columbia, returned to the District in March, 1941, and was committed a month later to St. Elizabeths Hospital as mentally ill. She has remained in that hospital ever since. She was deemed eligible for release in 1965, and a plan was made to transfer her from the hospital to a foster home. The plan depended, however, upon Mrs. Barley's obtaining welfare assistance for her support. Her application for assistance under the program for Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disabled was denied because her time spent in the hospital did not count in determining compliance with the one-year requirement.

Appellee Brown lived with her mother and two of her three children in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Her third child was living with appellee Brown's father in the District of Columbia. When her mother moved from Fort Smith to Oklahoma, appellee Brown, in February, 1966, returned to the District of Columbia, where she had lived as a child. Her application for AFDC assistance was approved insofar as it sought assistance for the child, who

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had lived in the District with her father but was denied to the extent it sought assistance for the two other children.

Appellee Legrant moved with her two children from South Carolina to the District of Columbia in March, 1967, after the death of her mother. She planned to live with a sister and brother in Washington. She was pregnant and in ill health when she applied for and was denied AFDC assistance in July, 1967.

The several cases were consolidated for trial, and a three-judge District Court was convened.4 The court, one judge dissenting, held § 3-203 unconstitutional. 279 F.Supp. 22 (1967). The majority rested its decision on the ground that the one-year requirement was unconstitutional as a denial of the right to equal protection secured by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. We noted probable jurisdiction. 390 U.S. 940 (1968).

In No. 34, there are two appellees, Smith and Foster, who were denied AFDC aid on the sole ground that they had not been residents of Pennsylvania for a year prior to their...

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