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

Docket NºNo. 72-6609
Citation417 U.S. 628, 94 S.Ct. 2496, 41 L.Ed.2d 363
Party NameJimenez v. Weinberger
Case DateJune 19, 1974
CourtUnited States Supreme Court

Page 628

417 U.S. 628 (1974)

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

Jimenez

v.

Weinberger

No. 72-6609

United States Supreme Court

June 19, 1974

Argued March 18, 1974

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS

Syllabus

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

Page 629

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).

Page 631

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 disability.2 In all other respects, Eugenio and Alicia are eligible to receive child's insurance benefits, and their applications were denied solely because they are proscribed illegitimate children who were not dependent on Jimenez at the time of the onset of his disability.

Appellants urge that the contested Social Security provision is based upon the so-called "suspect classification" of illegitimacy. Like race and national origin, they argue, illegitimacy is a characteristic determined solely by the accident of birth; it is a condition beyond the control of the children, and it is a status that subjects the children to a stigma of inferiority and a badge of opprobrium. We need not reach appellants' argument, however, because,

Page 632

in the context of this case, it is enough that we note, as we did in Weber v. Aetna Casualty & Surety Co., 406 U.S. 164 (1972):

The status of illegitimacy has expressed through the ages society's condemnation of irresponsible liaisons beyond the bonds of marriage. But visiting this condemnation on the head of an infant is illogical and unjust. Moreover, imposing disabilities on the illegitimate child is contrary to the basic concept of our system that legal burdens should bear some relationship to individual responsibility or wrongdoing. Obviously, no child is responsible for his birth, and penalizing the illegitimate child is an ineffectual -- as well as an unjust -- way of deterring the parent. Courts are powerless to prevent the social opprobrium suffered by these hapless children, but the Equal Protection Clause does enable us to strike down discriminatory laws relating to status of birth where . . . the classification is justified by no legitimate state interest, compelling or otherwise.

Id. at 175-176.

Conversely, the Secretary urges us to uphold this statutory scheme on the [94 S.Ct. 2500] ground that the case is controlled by the Court's recent ruling in Dandridge v. Williams, 397 U.S. 471 (1970), where we noted:

In the area of economics and social welfare, a State does not violate the Equal Protection Clause merely because the classifications made by its laws are imperfect. If the classification has some "reasonable basis," it does not offend the Constitution simply because the classification "is not made with mathematical nicety or because, in practice, it results in some inequality." Lindsley v. Natural Carbonic Gas Co., 220 U.S. 61, 78.

The problems of government are

Page 633

practical ones and may justify, if they do not require, rough accommodations -- illogical, it may be, and unscientific.

Metropolis Theatre Co. v. City of Chicago, 228 U.S. 61, 69-70. "A statutory discrimination will not be set aside if any state of facts reasonably may be conceived to justify it." McGowan v. Maryland, 366 U.S. 420, 426.

Id. at 485.

However, Dandridge involved an equal protection attack upon Maryland's Aid to Families with Dependent Children program which provided aid in accordance with the family's standard of need, but limited the maximum grant to $250 per family, regardless of size, thereby reducing the per capita allowance for children of large families. We noted that the AFDC welfare program is a "`scheme of cooperative federalism,'" and that the "starting point of the statutory analysis must be a recognition that the federal law gives each State great latitude in...

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266 practice notes
  • 38 N.Y.2d 41, Montgomery v. Daniels
    • United States
    • New York United States Court of Appeals (New York)
    • November 25, 1975
    ...Vlandis v. Kline, 412 U.S. 441, 458, 93 S.Ct. 2230, 37 L.Ed.2d 63 (concurring opn. of Mr. Justice White); Jimenez v. Weinberger, 417 U.S. 628, 632, 94 S.Ct. 2496, 41 L.Ed.2d 363; Stanton v. Stanton, 421 U.S. 7, 95 S.Ct. 1373, 43 L.Ed.2d 688; see Gunther, The Supreme Court, 1971 Term--Forwar......
  • 80 A.D.2d 186, Slewett & Farber v. Board of Assessors
    • United States
    • New York New York Supreme Court Appelate Division Second Department
    • April 8, 1981
    ...Boren, 429 U.S. 190, 97 S.Ct. 451, 50 L.Ed.2d 397; Stanton v. Stanton, 421 U.S. 7, 95 S.Ct. 1373, 43 L.Ed.2d 688; Jimenez v. Weinberger, 417 U.S. 628, 94 S.Ct. 2496, 41 L.Ed.2d 363; James v. Strange, 407 U.S. 128, 92 S.Ct. 2027, 32 L.Ed.2d 600; Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71, 92 S.Ct. 251, 30 L.......
  • 434 U.S. 989 (1977), 77-132, Hill v. Garner.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Supreme Court
    • December 12, 1977
    ...on state constitutional grounds, but it is apparent that various equal protection cases in this Court, such as Jimenez v. Weinberger, 417 U.S. 628, 94 S.Ct. 2496, 41 L.Ed.2d 363 (1974); Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71, 92 S.Ct. 251, 30 L.Ed.2d 255 (1971); Glona v. American Guarantee & Liabili......
  • 775 F.2d 627 (5th Cir. 1985), 85-3092, Rollins Environmental Services (FS), Inc. v. St. James Parish
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • November 1, 1985
    ...461, 99 L.Ed. 563 (1955); U.S. Dept. of Agriculture v. Moreno, 413 U.S. 528, 93 S.Ct. 2821, 37 L.Ed.2d 782 (1973); Jiminez v. Weinberger, 417 U.S. 628, 94 S.Ct. 2496, 41 L.Ed.2d 363 (1974). Here, of course, the question is not so much whether the challenged Ordinance is rationally related t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
254 cases
  • 38 N.Y.2d 41, Montgomery v. Daniels
    • United States
    • New York United States Court of Appeals (New York)
    • November 25, 1975
    ...Vlandis v. Kline, 412 U.S. 441, 458, 93 S.Ct. 2230, 37 L.Ed.2d 63 (concurring opn. of Mr. Justice White); Jimenez v. Weinberger, 417 U.S. 628, 632, 94 S.Ct. 2496, 41 L.Ed.2d 363; Stanton v. Stanton, 421 U.S. 7, 95 S.Ct. 1373, 43 L.Ed.2d 688; see Gunther, The Supreme Court, 1971 Term--Forwar......
  • 80 A.D.2d 186, Slewett & Farber v. Board of Assessors
    • United States
    • New York New York Supreme Court Appelate Division Second Department
    • April 8, 1981
    ...Boren, 429 U.S. 190, 97 S.Ct. 451, 50 L.Ed.2d 397; Stanton v. Stanton, 421 U.S. 7, 95 S.Ct. 1373, 43 L.Ed.2d 688; Jimenez v. Weinberger, 417 U.S. 628, 94 S.Ct. 2496, 41 L.Ed.2d 363; James v. Strange, 407 U.S. 128, 92 S.Ct. 2027, 32 L.Ed.2d 600; Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71, 92 S.Ct. 251, 30 L.......
  • 434 U.S. 989 (1977), 77-132, Hill v. Garner.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Supreme Court
    • December 12, 1977
    ...on state constitutional grounds, but it is apparent that various equal protection cases in this Court, such as Jimenez v. Weinberger, 417 U.S. 628, 94 S.Ct. 2496, 41 L.Ed.2d 363 (1974); Reed v. Reed, 404 U.S. 71, 92 S.Ct. 251, 30 L.Ed.2d 255 (1971); Glona v. American Guarantee & Liabili......
  • 775 F.2d 627 (5th Cir. 1985), 85-3092, Rollins Environmental Services (FS), Inc. v. St. James Parish
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States Courts of Appeals United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
    • November 1, 1985
    ...461, 99 L.Ed. 563 (1955); U.S. Dept. of Agriculture v. Moreno, 413 U.S. 528, 93 S.Ct. 2821, 37 L.Ed.2d 782 (1973); Jiminez v. Weinberger, 417 U.S. 628, 94 S.Ct. 2496, 41 L.Ed.2d 363 (1974). Here, of course, the question is not so much whether the challenged Ordinance is rationally related t......
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1 firm's commentaries
  • Florida Real Property & Business Litigation Report, Volume 13, Issue 28
    • United States
    • JD Supra United States
    • July 14, 2020
    ...443 U. S. 76, 89–91 (1979); Califano v. Goldfarb, 430 U. S. 199, 202– 204, 213–217 (1977) (plurality opinion); Jimenez v. Wein-berger, 417 U. S. 628, 637–638 (1974); Department of Agri-culture v. Moreno, 413 U. S. 528, 529, 537–538 (1973); Fron-tiero v. Richardson, 411 U. S. 677, 678–679, 6......
8 books & journal articles
  • Puerto Rico and the Constitution: conundrums and prospects.
    • United States
    • Constitutional Commentary Vol. 11 Nbr. 1, January 1994
    • January 1, 1994
    ...made exceptions where a protected class is involved. See, e.g., Califano v. Goldfarb, 430 U.S. 199 (1977) (gender); Jimenez v. Weinberger, 417 U.S. 628 (1974) (illegitimacy); Graham v. Richardson, 403 U.S. 365 (1971) (aliens). (31.) In 1991, California (with a population a bit more than eig......
  • When equality leaves everyone worse off: the problem of leveling down in equality law.
    • United States
    • William and Mary Law Review Vol. 46 Nbr. 2, November 2004
    • November 1, 2004
    ...with unemployed mothers or fathers, regardless of wage-earner status. (130.) Id. at 93-94. (131.) Id. at 89 (citing Jiminez v. Weinberger, 417 U.S. 628, 637-38 (1974) and Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677, 691 n.25 (1973)). This principle qualified the Court's acknowledgement that a cou......
  • Liberty, equality, and parentage in the era of posthumous conception.
    • United States
    • Journal of Law and Health Vol. 27 Nbr. 1, March - March 2014
    • March 22, 2014
    ...inheriting from their fathers."). (78) Mathews, 427 U.S. at 506. (79) Chemerinsky, supra note 72, at 934. (80) Jiminez v. Weinberger, 417 U.S. 628 (1974). (81) Id. at 630-31. (82) Id. (83) Id. at 634-36. The full list of non-marital children who could receive benefits was as follows: t......
  • Unwitting and Unwelcome in Their Own Homes: Remedying the Coverage Gap in the Child Citizenship Act of 2000
    • United States
    • Iowa Law Review Nbr. 104-4, May 2019
    • May 1, 2019
    ...For other examples in which the Supreme Court rejected legislation discriminating based on legitimacy of birth, see Jimenez v. Weinberger, 417 U.S. 628, 637–38 (1974); Gomez v. Perez, 409 U.S. 535, 538 (1973); Weber v. Aetna Cas. & Sur. Co., 406 U.S. 164, 165 (1972); Levy v. Louisiana, ......
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