Butte Community Union v. Lewis, No. 85-449

Docket NºNo. 85-449
Citation43 St.Rep. 65, 712 P.2d 1309, 219 Mont. 426
Case DateJanuary 16, 1986
CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Montana

Page 1309

712 P.2d 1309
219 Mont. 426
BUTTE COMMUNITY UNION, et al., Plaintiffs and Respondents,
v.
Dave LEWIS, as Director of the Montana State Department of
Social and Rehabilitation Services, Defendant and
Appellant.
No. 85-449.
Supreme Court of Montana.
Submitted Dec. 6, 1985.
Decided Jan. 16, 1986.

Page 1310

[219 Mont. 427] Russell E. Cater, argued, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., SRS, Michael S. [219 Mont. 428] Becker, argued, Sp. Asst. Atty. Gen., Helena, for defendant and appellant.

James Goetz, argued, Bozeman, Russell A. LaVigne, Jr., Montana Legal Services, Helena, Peggy Verberg, Robert L. Deschamps, Missoula Co. Atty., Missoula, for plaintiffs and respondents.

James P. Reynolds, Helena, Butte Ministerial Ass'n, City of Anaconda, City of Walkerville, International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 375, Butte, Women's Lobbyist fund, Robert Hayes, New York City, National Coalition for the Homeless, Gough, Shanahan, Johnson & Waterman, Joseph P. Mazurek, Helena, Montana Catholic Conference, Helena, for amicus curiae.

MORRISON, Justice.

The District Court of the First Judicial District issued a preliminary injunction enjoining Dave Lewis, Director of Montana's Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS), from implementing certain provisions of House Bill 843 (Chapter No. 670, 1985 Mont. Laws). Lewis appeals. We affirm the issuance of the preliminary injunction and issue a permanent injunction for the same purpose.

In response to a complaint filed by Butte Community Union in February of 1984, the Honorable Arnold Olsen issued a preliminary injunction June 29, 1984, prohibiting the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services (SRS) from implementing proposed regulations establishing AFDC guidelines as the guidelines for determining general assistance (GA) benefits. Thereafter, the 1985 Montana Legislature enacted House Bill 843 establishing cash payment levels for GA recipients in accordance with Judge Olsen's order. House Bill 843 also eliminates GA payments to able-bodied individuals under thirty-five who have no minor dependent children and substantially restricts GA payments to able-bodied individuals between thirty-five and fifty who have no minor dependent children.

On June 3, 1985, Butte Community Union (respondents) filed an amended complaint challenging the constitutionality of HB 843 and requesting the court to issue a preliminary injunction forbidding SRS from implementing that part of HB 843 which restricts or denies GA benefits to able-bodied individuals with no minor children. Following a hearing and briefing by the parties, the trial court issued a preliminary injunction on July 1, 1985, the date HB 843 was to go into effect.

[219 Mont. 429] In its findings, conclusions and order, the trial judge held that art. XII, section 3(3) of the Montana Constitution establishes a fundamental right to welfare "for those who, by reason of age, infirmities, or misfortune may have need for the aid of society." That section states:

(3) The legislature shall provide such economic assistance and social and rehabilitative services as may be necessary for those inhabitants who, by reason of age, infirmities, or misfortune may have need for the aid of society.

He further held that respondents (plaintiffs below) raised serious questions concerning whether HB 843 establishes an impermissible, discriminatory constitutional classification, thus violating the respondents' constitutional guarantee of equal protection. Finally, he held that a preliminary injunction should issue because respondents established

Page 1311

a prima facie case that HB 843 is unconstitutional and because they showed that it is "doubtful whether or not they will suffer irreparable injury before their rights are fully litigated."

The preliminary injunction was issued and SRS appeals, raising the following general issue:

Whether the defendant, Dave Lewis, as a public official, should be enjoined from implementing those provisions of HB 843 which restrict or deny general assistance benefits to able-bodied persons under the age of fifty who do not have minor dependent children?

The following sub-issues are assigned for review:

1. Whether the District Court used an incorrect standard for issuing the preliminary injunction?

2. Whether HB 843 violates art. XII, section 3(3), of the Montana Constitution?

3. Whether HB 843 violates equal protection or due process constitutional guarantees?

4. Whether HB 843 violates the Montana Human Rights Act?

We hold that Dave Lewis, as a public official, should be permanently enjoined from implementing the pertinent provisions of HB 843. However, our reasons for this injunction differ markedly from those of the trial judge. We find that the Montana Constitution does not establish a fundamental right to welfare for the aged, infirm or misfortunate. However, because the constitutional convention delegates deemed welfare to be sufficiently important to warrant reference in the Constitution, we hold that a classification which abridges welfare benefits is subject to a heightened scrutiny [219 Mont. 430] under an equal protection analysis and that HB 843 must fall under such scrutiny.

Respondent contends that the result of this legislation is forbidden by the Constitution. Respondent argues the Legislature must fund welfare for the misfortunate. However, because the legislation at issue today is discriminatory in nature, determining its constitutionality calls for equal protection analysis. It is not necessary that we address the broader question of whether there is a constitutional directive to the Legislature for the funding of welfare which can not be avoided under any set of circumstances.

The fourteenth amendment to the Federal Constitution and article II, section 4 of the Montana Constitution provide that "[n]o person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws." The equal protection clause guarantees that similar individuals will be dealt with in a similar manner by the government. J. Nowak, R. Rotunda and J.N. Young, Constitutional Law, Chpt. 16, Sec. 1 (2d ed. 1983).

Equal protection analysis traditionally centers on a two-tier system of review. If a fundamental right is infringed or a suspect classification established, the government has to show a "compelling state interest" for its action. If the right is other than fundamental, or the classification not suspect, the government has only to show that the infringement or classification is rationally related to a governmental objective which is not prohibited by the Constitution. J. Nowak, supra.

In the instant case, the trial judge held the right to welfare to be fundamental. We can not agree. In order to be fundamental, a right must be found within Montana's Declaration of Rights or be a right "without which other constitutionally guaranteed rights would have little meaning." In the Matter of C.H. (Mont.1984), 683 P.2d 931, 940, 41 St.Rep. 997, 1007. Welfare is neither.

Art. XII, Sec. 3(3) of the 1972 Montana Constitution, the section on which the trial judge relies, is not part of the Declaration of Rights. Art. II, Sec. 3 is the only section in the Declaration of Rights which arguably could create a right to welfare. It states:

Inalienable rights. All persons are born free and have certain inalienable rights. They include the right ... of pursuing life's basic necessities....

Mont. Const., art. II, Sec. 3 (1972). The official committee comment to that provision states:

Page 1312

The intent of the committee on this point is not to create a substantive[219 Mont. 431] right for all for the necessities of life to be provided by the public treasury.

There is no constitutional right to welfare within the Montana...

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53 practice notes
  • Powder River County v. State, No. 00-226
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 21 novembre 2002
    ...in this instance. We acknowledge that this Court adopted a middle tier level of scrutiny in Butte Community Union v. Lewis (1986), 219 Mont. 426, 712 P.2d 1309, when analyzing Article XII, Section 3(3), of the Montana Constitution. Lewis did not involve a fundamental right or a suspect clas......
  • Snetsinger v. Montana University System, No. 03-238.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 30 décembre 2004
    ...v. Caraway, 2002 MT 240, ¶ 96, 312 Mont. 1, ¶ 96, 58 P.3d 128, ¶ 96 (Nelson, J., concurring); Butte Community Union v. Lewis (1986), 219 Mont. 426, 430, 712 P.2d 1309, 1311; Kloss v. Edward D. Jones & Co., 2002 MT 129, ¶ 52, 310 Mont. 123, ¶ 52, 54 P.3d 1, ¶ 52 (Nelson, J., concurring), cer......
  • Kloss v. Edward D. Jones & Co., No. 00-507.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 13 juin 2002
    ...Constitution. The rights included within this "Declaration of Rights" are "fundamental rights." Butte Community Union v. Lewis (1986), 219 Mont. 426, 430, 712 P.2d 1309, 1311. Accord, Wadsworth v. State (1996), 275 Mont. 287, 299, 911 P.2d 1165, 1172; State v. Tapson, 2001 MT 292, ¶ 15, 307......
  • Moore v. Ganim, No. 14923
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 20 juin 1995
    ...heightened scrutiny; Butte Community Union v. Lewis, 229 Mont. 212, 745 P.2d 1128, 1133 (1987); see also Butte Community Union v. Lewis, 219 Mont. 426, 712 P.2d 1309 (1986); the constitution was amended to provide the legislature with greater discretion in providing such benefits. Mont. Con......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
53 cases
  • Powder River County v. State, No. 00-226
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 21 novembre 2002
    ...in this instance. We acknowledge that this Court adopted a middle tier level of scrutiny in Butte Community Union v. Lewis (1986), 219 Mont. 426, 712 P.2d 1309, when analyzing Article XII, Section 3(3), of the Montana Constitution. Lewis did not involve a fundamental right or a suspect clas......
  • Snetsinger v. Montana University System, No. 03-238.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 30 décembre 2004
    ...v. Caraway, 2002 MT 240, ¶ 96, 312 Mont. 1, ¶ 96, 58 P.3d 128, ¶ 96 (Nelson, J., concurring); Butte Community Union v. Lewis (1986), 219 Mont. 426, 430, 712 P.2d 1309, 1311; Kloss v. Edward D. Jones & Co., 2002 MT 129, ¶ 52, 310 Mont. 123, ¶ 52, 54 P.3d 1, ¶ 52 (Nelson, J., concurring), cer......
  • Kloss v. Edward D. Jones & Co., No. 00-507.
    • United States
    • Montana United States State Supreme Court of Montana
    • 13 juin 2002
    ...Constitution. The rights included within this "Declaration of Rights" are "fundamental rights." Butte Community Union v. Lewis (1986), 219 Mont. 426, 430, 712 P.2d 1309, 1311. Accord, Wadsworth v. State (1996), 275 Mont. 287, 299, 911 P.2d 1165, 1172; State v. Tapson, 2001 MT 292, ¶ 15, 307......
  • Moore v. Ganim, No. 14923
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • 20 juin 1995
    ...heightened scrutiny; Butte Community Union v. Lewis, 229 Mont. 212, 745 P.2d 1128, 1133 (1987); see also Butte Community Union v. Lewis, 219 Mont. 426, 712 P.2d 1309 (1986); the constitution was amended to provide the legislature with greater discretion in providing such benefits. Mont. Con......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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