421 U.S. 707 (1975), 73-1820, Philbrook v. Glodgett

Docket Nº:No. 73-1820
Citation:421 U.S. 707, 95 S.Ct. 1893, 44 L.Ed.2d 525
Party Name:Philbrook v. Glodgett
Case Date:June 09, 1975
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 707

421 U.S. 707 (1975)

95 S.Ct. 1893, 44 L.Ed.2d 525

Philbrook

v.

Glodgett

No. 73-1820

United States Supreme Court

June 9, 1975

Argued March 24-25, 1975

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

FOR THE DISTRICT OF VERMONT

Syllabus

Under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program of the Social Security Act (Act), the term "dependent child" was expanded to include children whose deprivation was caused by a parent's unemployment. Section 407(b)(2)(C)(ii) of the Act, as amended in 1968, makes this expanded definition applicable only if a state plan under the AFDC program denies aid to a dependent child so defined "with respect to any week for which such child's father receives unemployment compensation." Vermont, to qualify for federal funding under this unemployed father program, promulgated a regulation under its participating Aid to Needy Families with Children (ANFC) program, defining an "unemployed father" as one who is, inter alia, out of work, provided "[h]e is not receiving Unemployment Compensation during the same week as assistance is granted." Appellees, who are parents and children of Vermont families whose ANFC assistance was terminated or denied because the fathers were receiving unemployment compensation, filed suit against appellant Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Social Welfare and appellant Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to enjoin enforcement of the federal statute and state regulation. Holding that it had jurisdiction over the parties under 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3), and construing § 407(b)(2)(C)(ii) as making actual payment of, rather than mere eligibility for, unemployment compensation the disqualifying factor for AFDC benefits, a three-judge District Court held that the Vermont regulation could not be applied so as to conflict with this construction of the federal statute, and entered an injunction to this effect.

Held:

1. The Vermont regulation, as applied to exclude unemployed fathers who are merely eligible for unemployment compensation

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from receiving ANFC benefits, [95 S.Ct. 1896] impermissibly conflicts with § 407(b)(2)(C)(ii), as correctly interpreted by the District Court. As evidenced by that provision's legislative history, Congress did not intend the provision's coverage to be at the State's discretion once it elected to participate. Pp. 713-719.

2. This Court will not inquire into the question whether the District Court had jurisdiction over appellant Secretary, but will make an exception to the general rule that this Court has a duty to so inquire where the question has been inadequately briefed, the substantive issue has been decided in the State's case, and the Secretary has stated he will comply with the District Court decision on the statutory issue if it is affirmed. The exercise of the District Court's jurisdiction over the Secretary has resulted in no adjudication on the merits that could not have been just as properly made without the Secretary, and in no issuance of process against the Secretary that he has properly contended to be wrongful before this Court. Pp. 720-722.

368 F.Supp. 211, No. 73-1820, affirmed; No. 7132, dismissed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

REHNQUIST, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE REHNQUIST delivered the opinion of the Court.

In these consolidated appeals, we are called upon to construe a provision of the Social Security Act of 1935 (Act), as amended, and to ascertain whether a Vermont welfare

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regulation impermissibly conflicts with that provision. A three-judge District Court held that it did, 368 F.Supp. 211 (Vt.1973), and we noted probable jurisdiction in the appeal of appellant Philbrook, Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Social Welfare, in No. 73-1820, and postponed consideration of the question of jurisdiction in the appeal of appellant Weinberger, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, in No. 74-132. 419 U.S. 963 (1974). Philbrook's appeal presents only the question of whether the Vermont welfare regulation in question conflicts with § 407(b)(2)(C)(ii) of the Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. § 607(b)(2)(C)(ii), while the Secretary's appeal presents the additional issue of whether the District Court correctly concluded that it had jurisdiction over the Secretary under the doctrine of pendent jurisdiction.

I

In Title IV of the Act, 49 Stat. 627, Congress enacted the Aid to Dependent Children program,1 through which federal funds would be granted to qualifying States in order to provide aid to dependent children. The term "dependent child" was originally defined to include only children whose deprivation was caused by "the death, continued absence from the home, or physical or mental incapacity of a parent,"2 but, in 1961, Congress expanded the definition of dependent

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child to include children whose deprivation was caused by the unemployment of a parent.3 This program was enacted on an experimental basis,4 and gave States the authority to define "unemployment" and to deny AFDC benefits in whole or in part if the unemployed parent received unemployment compensation during the relevant period. In 1968, Congress elected to make the unemployed parent program permanent,5 but, in response to problems that had arisen during the trial period, Congress retracted some of the authority that had formerly been delegated to the States.6 Under these and other

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changes that also became effective in 1968,7 the expanded definition of "dependent child," § 407(a) of the Act, applies only if participating States deny aid

to families with dependent children to any child or relative specified in subsection (a) of this section --

* * * *

(ii) with respect to any week for which such child's father receives unemployment compensation under an unemployment compensation law of a State or of the United States.

§ 407(b)(2)(C)(ii) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 607(b)(2)(C)(ii).

To qualify for funding under this unemployed father program, Vermont promulgated Welfare Regulation 2333.1, which provides in relevant part:

An "unemployed father" is one whose minor children are in need because he is out of work, is working

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part-time, or is not at work due to an industrial dispute (strike), for at least 30 days prior to receiving assistance, provided that:

* * * *

(3) He is not receiving Unemployment Compensation during the same week as assistance is granted.

[95 S.Ct. 1898] Appellees are the parents and minor children of Vermont families whose ANFC assistance was terminated or whose applications [95 S.Ct. 1894] for assistance were rejected because the fathers were receiving unemployment compensation; in each instance, the amount of money received by the family in unemployment compensation was less than would have been received under the ANFC program. Appellees filed suit against Commissioner Philbrook and Secretary Weinberger to enjoin the enforcement of the federal statute and state regulation. The three-judge court, finding that it had jurisdiction over the parties by virtue of 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3), concluded

from the language of the statute that the disqualifying factor is actual payment, rather than mere eligibility for unemployment compensation.

368 F.Supp. at 217. Under this construction of § 407(b)(2)(C)(ii) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 607(b)(2)(C)(ii), a father who otherwise qualified had an option to receive either an unemployment compensation check or ANFC assistance, whichever was greater, and the Vermont regulation could not be applied so as to conflict with this construction of the federal statute. An injunction to this effect was entered, and both the state and federal parties have appealed.8

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II

The appellants do not contest, as indeed they could not, that § 407(b)(2)(C)(ii) speaks in terms of a "father [who] receives unemployment compensation", rather than a "father [who] is eligible to receive unemployment compensation." They do contend, however, that the District Court's construction of that section is wholly at odds with the premise underlying the AFDC program and with the approach to non-AFDC resources dictated by § 402(a)(7) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(7).

In expounding a statute, we must not be guided by a single sentence or member of a sentence, but look to the...

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