446 U.S. 651 (1980), 79-1294, Harris v. Rosario

Docket Nº:No. 79-1294
Citation:446 U.S. 651, 100 S.Ct. 1929, 64 L.Ed.2d 587
Party Name:Harris v. Rosario
Case Date:May 27, 1980
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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446 U.S. 651 (1980)

100 S.Ct. 1929, 64 L.Ed.2d 587

Harris

v.

Rosario

No. 79-1294

United States Supreme Court

May 27, 1980

Syllabus

Held: The lower level of reimbursement provided to Puerto Rico under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program does not violate the Fifth Amendment's equal protection guarantee. Congress, pursuant to its authority under the Territory Clause of the Constitution to make all needful rules and regulations respecting Territories, may treat Puerto Rico differently from States so long as there is a rational basis for its actions, as here. Cf. Califano v. Torres, 435 U.S. 1.

Reversed.

Per curiam opinion.

PER CURIAM.

The Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (AFDC), 49 Stat. 627, as [100 S.Ct. 1930] amended, 42 U.S.C. § 601 et seq., provides federal financial assistance to States and Territories to aid families with needy dependent children. Puerto Rico receives less assistance than do the States, 42 U.S.C. §§ 1308(a)(1), 1396d(b) (1976 ed. and Supp. II). Appellees, AFDC recipients residing in Puerto Rico, filed this class action against the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (now the Secretary of Health and Human Services) in March, 1977, in the United States District Court for the District of Puerto Rico; they challenged the constitutionality of 42 U.S.C. §§ 1308 and 1396d(b), claiming successfully that the lower level of AFDC reimbursement provided to Puerto Rico violates the Fifth Amendment's equal protection guarantee.

We disagree. Congress, which is empowered under the Territory Clause of the Constitution, U.S.Const., Art. IV, § 3, cl. 2, to "make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting the Territory . . . belonging to the United States," may treat Puerto Rico differently from States so long as there is a

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rational basis for its actions. In Califano v. Torres, 435 U.S. 1 (1978) (per curiam), we concluded that a similar statutory classification was rationally grounded or three factors: Puerto Rican residents do not contribute to the federal treasury; the cost of treating Puerto Rico as a State under the statute would be high; and greater benefits could disrupt the Puerto Rican economy. These same considerations are forwarded here in support of §§ 1308 and 1396d(b), Juris.Statement 12-14, * and we see no reason to depart from our conclusion in Torres that they suffice to form a rational basis for the challenged statutory classification.

We reverse.

So ordered.

MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN and MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN, not now being persuaded that the Court's summary disposition in Califano v. Torres, 435 U.S. 1 (1978), so clearly controls this case, would note probable jurisdiction and set the case for oral argument.

MARSHALL, J., dissenting

MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL, dissenting.

The Court today rushes to resolve important legal issues without full briefing or oral argument. The sole authority cited for the majority's result is another summary decision by this Court. The need for such haste is unclear. The dangers of such decisionmaking are clear, however, as the Court's analysis is, in my view, ill-conceived in at least two respects.

The first question that merits plenary attention is whether Congress, acting pursuant to the Territory Clause of the Constitution, U.S.Const., Art. IV, § 3, cl. 2, "may treat Puerto

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Rico differently from States so long as there is a rational basis for its actions." Ante at 651-652. No authority is cited for this proposition. Our prior decisions do not support such a broad statement.

It is important to remember at the outset that Puerto Ricans are United States citizens, see 8 U.S.C. § 1402, and that different treatment to Puerto Rico under AFDC may well affect the benefits paid to these citizens.1 While some early opinions of this [100 S.Ct. 1931] Court suggested that various protections of the Constitution do not apply to Puerto Rico, see, e.g., Downes v. Bidwell, 182 U.S. 244 (1901); Balzac v. Porto Rico, 258 U.S. 298 (1922), the present validity of those decisions is questionable. See Torres v. Puerto Rico, 442 U.S. 465, 475-476 (1979) (BRENNAN, J., concurring in judgment). We have already held that Puerto Rico is subject to the Due Process Clause of either the Fifth or Fourteenth Amendment, Calero-Toledo v. Pearson Yacht Leasing Co., 416 U.S. 663, 668-669, n. 5 (1974), and the equal protection guarantee of either the Fifth or the Fourteenth Amendment, Examining Board v. Flores de Otero, 426 U.S. 572, 599-601 (1976). The Fourth Amendment is also fully applicable to Puerto Rico, either directly or by operation of the Fourteenth Amendment, Torres v. Puerto Rico, supra, at 471. At least four Members of this Court are of the view that all provisions

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of the Bill of Rights apply to Puerto Rico. 442 U.S. at 475-476 (BRENNAN, J., joined by STEWART, MARSHALL, and BLACKMUN, JJ., concurring in judgment).

Despite these precedents, the Court suggests today, without benefit of briefing or argument, that Congress needs only a rational basis to support less beneficial treatment for Puerto Rico, and the citizens residing there, than is provided to the States and citizens residing in the States. Heightened scrutiny under the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment, the Court concludes, is simply...

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