Ward v. Winstead, GC 6829.

Decision Date01 July 1970
Docket NumberNo. GC 6829.,GC 6829.
Citation314 F. Supp. 1225
PartiesMary Emma WARD et al., Plaintiffs, v. Arthur WINSTEAD et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Mississippi



James M. Abram, Jackson, Miss., for plaintiffs.

Will S. Wells, Asst. Atty. Gen., Jackson, Miss., H. Talbot Odom, Greenwood, Miss., for defendants.

Before GEWIN, Circuit Judge, and KEADY and SMITH, Judges.

KEADY, District Judge:

Plaintiffs, black recipients of public assistance under the Mississippi Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) Program, and residents of Leflore County, Mississippi, bring this action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 against the Commissioner of Public Welfare of the State of Mississippi, the members of the State Board of Public Welfare, and the Leflore County Welfare Agent, attacking the validity and constitutionality of: (1) the Mississippi administrative regulations1 restricting ADC recipients to 30% of computed need, and (2) the Mississippi statute limiting grants to each ADC family to $30 for the first child, $18 for the second and $12 for each subsequent child.2

Plaintiffs seek a judgment declaring that the administrative regulation contravenes both the Mississippi Welfare Statute3 and the Social Security Act,4 that the state statute violates the Social Security Act, and that the regulation and state statute are unconstitutional as violative of the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment. Plaintiffs invoked jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1343 (3) and (4) and requested the convening of a three-judge district court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. §§ 2281 and 2284 because of plaintiffs' prayer to enjoin the enforcement, operation and execution upon the ground of unconstitutionality of the state's administrative regulation and statute. A three-judge court was properly convened. King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309, 88 S.Ct. 2128, 20 L.Ed.2d 1118 (1968).

Plaintiffs Ward and Winston are each mother and sole support of two eligible children. Ward's monthly budgetary deficit is $162.30, and Winston's is $187.5

After application of percentage reduction alone, Ward would receive $48.69 and Winston $56.10 per month. Applying the per child maxima to those figures, each family actually receives $48 per month.6 Plaintiff Lockett, mother of six eligible children, has a budgetary deficit of $250 per month. By operation of the percentage reduction rule alone her family receives $75 per month, less than the $96 statutory maximum. Plaintiff Winters, mother of seven eligible children, has a deficit of $185, 30% of which is $85, which is less than the $108 maximum. Thus, the Lockett and Winters families are not affected by the per child maxima. (See table, Fn. 6).

Plaintiffs sue on behalf of themselves, their minor children and all Mississippi ADC recipients similarly situated. Plaintiffs admit lack of standing to attack the $108 per family maximum regulation because no plaintiff has 8 or more eligible children.

After extensive discovery and submission of pre-trial memoranda, trial on the merits was conducted at Biloxi, Mississippi, on May 19, 1969. The parties promptly submitted post-trial briefs, but a ruling in the case was stayed pending a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States in an appeal taken in Williams v. Dandridge, 297 F.Supp. 450 (D. C.Md.1968), which involved similar questions, and it was not until April 6, 1970, that the Supreme Court gave its pronouncement in Dandridge by reversing the decision of the three-judge district court and upholding the Maryland maximum family grant provision.7

Mississippi participates in, and administers, four categories of public assistance: Old Age Assistance (OAA),8 Aid to the Blind (AB),9 Aid to the Permanently and Totally Disabled (APTD),10 and Aid to Dependent Children (ADC).11 The ADC program is administered by the State through its Board of Public Welfare pursuant to the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 601 et seq., and in accordance with regulations promulgated by the Board under authority of State statutes. It has been stipulated12 that in determining financial needs of recipients, Mississippi uses a standardized budget of costs and expenses which applies uniformly to all four categories, so that budgetary deficits are determined in a consistent manner; in ADC cases, the State's estimate of need recognizes that it requires less to raise a child in a household with two or more children than with only one child. Stated more generally, the economics of scale of raising children are built into the State's determination of need.

The recipients in the OAA, AB and APTD programs currently13 receive 100% of their budgetary deficit unless it exceeds $55 per month, which is the administrative ceiling. In the average case, the adult recipient is not materially affected by that ceiling.14 No percentage limitation is imposed on any category of public assistance other than ADC. This has not always been true. Prior to 1956 there were, in most years, percentage limitations on OAA and AB grants, and prior to 1963 on APTD grants.15

For the year 1968 the following percentage of "average budgetary deficit" paid by "average grant" of public assistance was: OAA 84.7%, AB 77.3%, APTD 80.5% and ADC 26.8%.16 The average payment to an ADC recipient was $8.50; the average payment to an ADC family was $34.85; and the average ADC family budgetary deficit was $129.41.17 By contrast, average payments amounted to $36.13 to OAA recipients, $44.63 to AB recipients, and $44.56 to APTD recipients.18 Since 1948 average payments to OAA, AB and APTD recipients have more than doubled, while the average ADC payment is less now than it was 20 years ago. State officials attribute this to the necessity of disbursing available funds among the rapidly expanding ADC rolls, which have steadily increased since Mississippi first inaugurated the ADC program on May 10, 1940.19 The striking increase in the number of ADC recipients, totaling 87,000 as of May, 1969, is shown below.20

Of the Mississippi expenditures for public welfare,21 62.4% is expended on OAA, 2.6% on AB, 17.3% on APTD, and 17.3% on ADC. During the six years prior to the last appropriation, the State legislature had limited ADC expenditures to not more than 3.2 million dollars per biennium, but this limitation was removed in 1968.

Plaintiffs attack Mississippi's ADC program upon a number of grounds. First, they contend that the administratively imposed percentage reduction and the statutory maximum grant limitations, both separately and operating together, violate the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, and also such provisions discriminate against Negro recipients without rational justification, thus denying plaintiffs equal protection of the laws. Next they assert the 30% reduction rule contravenes the State statute, § 7173, and that both percentage reductions and statutory maxima conflict with the Social Security Act.

Federal jurisdiction of challenges by welfare recipients to State statutes and regulations is now well-established. Dandridge, supra; see Note, "Federal Judicial Review of State Welfare Practices", 67 Col.L.Rev. 84 (1964).

A. The Mississippi Statute

In accordance with the directions of the Supreme Court,22 we consider first the pendent statutory claims. Plaintiffs argue that the State Welfare Department's regulation (Fn. 1, supra), which limits ADC payments to 30% of budgetary deficit, violates the Mississippi ADC statute (Fn. 2, supra). As stated, they do not presently challenge the administrative order which places a family maximum of $108 on ADC grants.

The court notes at the outset that it has found no case in which a welfare regulation was struck down as violative of a state statute. The three-judge district court in Dandridge mentioned in a footnote that plaintiffs there had alleged violations of the Maryland statute, but did not rule on the question since plaintiffs had not pursued it. Williams v. Dandridge, 297 F.Supp. 450 at 456, note 13 (D.C.Md.1968).

Since § 7173 states that payments to each ADC child (when added to other income) "shall be sufficient to provide such child with a reasonable subsistence compatible with decency and health", plaintiffs urge that this language requires in specific terms that each ADC child receive no less than 100% of his subsistence needs, i. e., his budgetary deficit. Several factors rebut this argument. First, the very next sentence of § 7173 places per child maxima on all ADC grants. This subsequent specific language forbidding payment to any recipient of such portion of his budgetary deficit as exceeds the stated amounts clearly modifies and qualifies the quoted general words which seem to imply that recipients should receive their entire needs. Also, § 7173 expressly provides "the amount of assistance" shall be determined "in accordance with the rules and regulations made by the state department." Thus the statute is at least ambiguous, if not self-conflicting. The record clearly shows that the Mississippi legislature has never appropriated sufficient funds to pay ADC recipients 100% of budgetary deficit. Operating under the predecessors of the present statute, which had the same language on payment of subsistence needs, the Welfare Department for more than 20 years paid ADC recipients less than 100% of budgetary deficit due to lack of funds. This practice, which must have been known to the state legislature, was tacitly approved by it when it re-enacted the statute in 1968 (Ch. 562, § 3) without changing the provisions concerning subsistence.

The above factors strongly indicate that the statute's general language, relied upon by plaintiffs, did not require the Welfare Department to pay each recipient 100% of his budgetary deficit, but was rather a general statement of the goal of the ADC program, which the Welfare Department was bound to pursue within the...

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6 cases
  • Arizona St. Dept. of Pub. W. v. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH, E. & W.
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Ninth Circuit
    • November 17, 1971
    ...receive, Dandridge v. Williams, supra, or by paying to each AFDC recipient a fixed percentage of his actual needs, Ward v. Winstead, N.D.Miss., 1970, 314 F.Supp. 1225, 1233, appeal dismissed for untimely filing, 1971, 400 U.S. 1019, 91 S.Ct. 587, 27 L.Ed.2d 630; cf. Rosado v. Wyman, 1970, 3......
  • West v. Cole
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    • U.S. District Court — Northern District of Mississippi
    • February 19, 1975
    ...latitude in devising programs and allocating the public fisc. Dandridge, supra; Jefferson, supra. See also Ward v. Winstead, 314 F.Supp. 1225, 1238 (N.D. Miss.1970). The rigorous judicial scrutiny of legislative enactments which is appropriate and practicable in some constitutional settings......
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    • Mississippi Supreme Court
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    ...situated individuals, the distinction must be grounded in a rational reason based on a legitimate state interest. Ward v. Winstead, 314 F.Supp. 1225, 1237 (N.D.Miss.1970), appeal dismissed, 400 U.S. 1019, 91 S.Ct. 587, 27 L.Ed.2d 630 (1977); accord Williams v. Taylor, 677 F.2d 510, 516 (5th......
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    ...supra, 397 U.S. at 409, 90 S.Ct. 1207, or, (b) payment of a certain percentage of the budgetary deficit, see Ward v. Winstead, 314 F.Supp. 1225, 1229-1230 (N.D.Miss.1970). In the Texas AFDC program, the effect of this practice — identical to that employed in the District — led to increased ......
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