417 U.S. 628 (1974), 72-6609, Jimenez v. Weinberger

Docket Nº:No. 72-6609
Citation:417 U.S. 628, 94 S.Ct. 2496, 41 L.Ed.2d 363
Party Name:Jimenez v. Weinberger
Case Date:June 19, 1974
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 628

417 U.S. 628 (1974)

94 S.Ct. 2496, 41 L.Ed.2d 363




No. 72-6609

United States Supreme Court

June 19, 1974

Argued March 18, 1974




Under the Social Security Act, illegitimate children are deemed entitled to disability insurance benefits without any showing that they are, in fact, dependent upon their disabled parent if state law permits them to inherit from the wage-earner parent; if their illegitimacy results solely from formal, nonobvious defects in their parents' ceremonial marriage; or if they are legitimated in accordance with state law. An illegitimate child unable to meet any of the foregoing conditions can qualify only if the disabled wage-earner parent contributed to the child's support or lived with him prior to the parent's disability, 42 U.S.C. § 416(h)(3)(B); if the child is unable to meet any of the foregoing conditions, the statute bars the child's benefits without any opportunity to establish entitlement thereto. Ramon Jimenez, a resident of Illinois (which does not allow nonlegitimated illegitimate children to inherit from their father), is a wage earner covered by the Act who became entitled to disability benefits in October, 1963. Thereafter, Jimenez applied for insurance benefits for appellants, two of his [94 S.Ct. 2498] nonlegitimated illegitimate children who were born after the onset of disability. The claims were denied since the children did not meet the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 416(h)(3)(B) or the other qualifying provisions of the Act. Appellants brought this action for review of the denial of benefits. A three-judge District Court upheld the statutory classification as being rationally related to the proper governmental interest of avoiding spurious claims.

Held: Title 42 U.S.C. § 416(h)(3)(B), as part of the statutory scheme applicable to illegitimates, contravenes the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment and the equal protection of the laws guaranteed thereby. Pp. 631-638.

(a) "[T]he Equal Protection Clause [is violated by] discriminatory

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laws relating to status of birth where . . . the classification is justified by no legitimate state interest, compelling or otherwise." Weber v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 406 U.S. 164, 176. Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471, distinguished. Pp. 631-634.

(b) The primary purpose of the contested provision of the Act is to provide support for dependents of a disabled wage earner and is not, as appellee contends, to replace only that support actually enjoyed before the onset of disability. Pp. 634-635.

(c) The complete statutory bar to disability benefits imposed upon nonlegitimated after-born illegitimates in appellants' position, is not reasonably related to the valid governmental interest of preventing spurious claims. The potential for spurious claims is the same as to both. Even if children might rationally be classified on the basis of whether they are dependent upon their disabled parents, the Act's definition of two subclasses of illegitimates is "overinclusive" in that it benefits some children who are legitimated, or entitled to inherit, or illegitimate solely because of a defect in the marriage of their parents, but who are not dependent on their disabled parent. Conversely, the Act is "underinclusive" in that it conclusively excludes some illegitimates in appellants' subclass who are, in fact, dependent upon their disabled parent. Pp. 635-637.

(d) The judgment is vacated and the case is remanded to provide appellants an opportunity to establish their claim to eligibility as "children" of the claimant eligible for benefits under the Act. Pp. 637-638.

353 F.Supp. 1356, vacated and remanded.

BURGER, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 638.

Page 630

BURGER, J., lead opinion

MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

A three-judge District Court in the Northern District of Illinois upheld the constitutionality of a provision of the Social Security Act which provides that certain illegitimate children, who cannot qualify for benefits under any other provision of the Act, may obtain benefits if, but only if, the disabled wage-earner parent is shown to have contributed to the child's support or to have lived with him prior to the parent's disability.1 The District Court held that the statute's classification is rationally related to the legitimate governmental interest of avoiding spurious claims. Jimenez v. Richardson, 353 F.Supp. 1356, 1361 (1973). We noted probable jurisdiction. 414 U.S. 1061.

The relevant facts are not in dispute. Ramon Jimenez, a wage earner covered under the Social Security Act, became disabled in April, 1963, and became entitled to disability benefits in October, 1963. Some years prior to that time, [94 S.Ct. 2499] the claimant separated from his wife and began living with Elizabeth Hernandez, whom he never married. Three children were born to them, Magdalena, born August 13, 1963, Eugenio, born January 18, 1965, and Alicia, born February 24, 1968. These children have lived in Illinois with claimant all their lives; he has formally acknowledged them to be his children, has supported and cared for them since their birth, and has been their sole caretaker since their mother left the household late in 1968. Since the parents never married, these children are classified as illegitimate under Illinois law, and are unable to inherit from their father because they are nonlegitimated illegitimate children. Ill.Ann.Stat., c.3, (Supp. 1974).

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On August 21, 1968, Ramon Jimenez, as the father, filed an application for child's insurance benefits on behalf of these three children. Magdalena was found to be entitled to child's insurance benefits under the Social Security Act, and no issue is presented with respect to her claim. The claims of appellants, Eugenio and Alicia, were denied, however, on the ground that they did not meet the requirements of 42 U.S.C. § 416(h)(3), since neither child's paternity had been acknowledged or affirmed through evidence of domicile and support before the onset of their father's...

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