Probable Jurisdiction Noted January 22, 1968. See 88 S.Ct. 821.
This is an action for declaratory and injunctive relief filed pursuant to 42 U. S.C. § 1983.
Plaintiff Sylvester Smith, a citizen of the United States, the State of Alabama and the County of Dallas, and the mother of plaintiffs Ida Elizabeth Smith, aged 14; Ernestine Smith, aged 12; Willie Louis Smith, aged 11, and Willie James Smith, aged 9, brings this action in her own behalf, in behalf of said minor children and, pursuant to Rule 23(a) and (b) (2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, in behalf of all other persons similarly situated.
The defendants are the chairman, members and officials of the Alabama State Board of Pensions and Security, responsible, in conference with the Commissioner, under the law of Alabama for the adoption of policies, rules and regulations of the Alabama State Department of Pensions and Security. Code of Alabama, Title 49, § 17. The Commissioner of the Alabama Department of Pensions and Security has a statutory responsibility for the adoption of the regulations designed to effect the policy and for exercising the executive and administrative duties of the Alabama State Department of Pensions and Security. Code of Alabama, Title 49, § 17. The defendant Mrs.
Since the plaintiffs seek injunctive relief restraining the defendant officers of the State of Alabama from the enforcement, operation and execution of a state-wide regulation set forth in the Alabama Manual for Administration of Public Assistance, Part I, Chapter II, Section VI, Par. V (entitled "Child Ineligible if There Is a Father or Mother Substitute") and commonly referred to as the "substitute father" regulation,
By stipulation of the parties made and filed with the Clerk of this Court, the action is submitted on depositions, numerous documents and exhibits, and the briefs and arguments of the parties.
For several years prior to October 1, 1966, plaintiff Sylvester Smith and her children had been recipients of financial assistance under the Aid to Dependent Children program of the State of Alabama, a public assistance program authorized by the Code of Alabama, Title 49, § 17 and 42 U.S.C. §§ 601-609. By notice dated October 11, 1966, plaintiff Smith and her children were removed, retroactively to September 30, 1966, from the list of persons eligible to receive such aid; this action was taken by the Dallas County, Alabama, welfare authorities
The defendants, in order to receive federal funds for the Aid to Dependent Children program conducted for the State of Alabama, have been required by the provisions of 42 U.S.C. §§ 601-609 to formulate a "State Plan" for aid to dependent children consistent with the provisions of the Constitution of the United States and the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 601 et seq. Under the terms of the Code of Alabama, Title 49, § 17(7), the defendants are also required to "Act as the agent of the federal government * * * in the administration of any federal funds granted to the state to aid in the furtherance of any of the functions of the state department * * *" and otherwise to act as the agents of the federal government in the furtherance of the objectives of the Aid to Dependent Children program. With this arrangement, federal funds are granted under the provisions of 42 U.S.C. § 601 et seq., and these funds constitute the major share of Aid to Dependent Children grants in the State of Alabama.
Under the terms of 42 U.S.C. § 606(a), a "dependent child" is defined as:
Three of the plaintiff children have not since 1955 received parental support or care from their father, who has been dead since that year. The fourth plaintiff child has not for several years received parental support or care from his father, who has been continuously absent for many years. All the plaintiff children are living in the home of their mother, plaintiff Sylvester Smith, and all are under the age of 18 and are not receiving any other type of public assistance. The sole income of plaintiff Smith and her children is the sum of $16 per week, which sum represents wages paid to her for working as a waitress; said income is below the financial standards promulgated by the defendants as necessary for a subsistence compatible with decency and health. In October 1966,
Some discussion of the federal-state welfare relationship, particularly the negotiation concerning the promulgation of policies such as are now under consideration, provides some pertinent historical background. In January 1961, the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare — after a hearing on a plan that had been adopted and promulgated by the State of Louisiana which was very similar to the rule now under consideration—stated what later became known as the "Flemming Ruling":
The United States Commissioner of Social Security, following the "Flemming Ruling," issued a statement to the effect:
It was announced that the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare's reasons for rejecting such policies were that:
Even before the "Flemming Ruling" and as early as April 1956, the then Alabama Commissioner of Welfare and the federal authorities corresponded with some frequency in an effort to determine whether the Alabama policy was in conformity with federal requirements insofar as that policy related to "suitable family" homes, and in April 1959 the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare by letter indicated certain substantial defects in legislation that was being proposed for the State of Alabama at that time:
In May 1959 a new suitable home policy was submitted to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare. After review by that department, it was declared "unsuitable," and then later, in August 1959, still another suitable home policy was sent to the federal authorities for approval, with the same results. This negotiating continued, and in June 1961 the federal authorities replied to an Alabama submission as follows:
Still later — and over two years after the "Flemming Ruling" — the federal authorities, by letter dated June 12, 1963, advised the welfare authorities for the State of Alabama that the "suitable home" policy bills then being submitted to the Alabama Legislature
The evidence in this case reflects that immediately after his appointment in January of 1963, Ruben K. King, present Commissioner of the Alabama State Department of Pensions and Security, commenced a complete study of the Aid to Dependent Children program in the State of Alabama; this study led to the adoption and promulgation of the "substitute parent" policy now under consideration.
The "substitute father" regulation presently under consideration by this Court is substantially the same as the regulation first submitted to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare in September 1964 by Commissioner King and his organization. Upon receiving the Alabama "substitute father" regulation, the Atlanta Regional Director for the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, by letter dated August 31, 1964, responded by stating:
Considerable correspondence ensued between the Alabama and the federal authorities concerning this "substitute father" regulation; however, this correspondence was to no avail, and the approval of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare to such policy was never obtained. In this connection, the evidence reflects that the Alabama regulation (now amended in minor details) presently in effect has not eliminated the administratively objectionable features of its predecessors.
As noted earlier, Aid to Dependent Children financial assistance is a statutory entitlement under both the laws of Alabama and the federal Social Security Act, and where the child meets the statutory eligibility requirements he has a right to receive financial benefits under the program. It is clear that Alabama, having undertaken to cooperate with the federal government in providing an Aid to Dependent Children program and having accepted federal financial assistance for that purpose, is not now free to bestow the benefits of the program upon some needy children and arbitrarily to deny them to others. There cannot be any picking and choosing of the mothers and children who will be aided if it is done in an irrational or in an arbitrary manner. Some children cannot be classified as eligible and others ineligible without a reasonable basis for distinguishing one class from the other; classifications may only be created which are rationally related to the purpose of the federal and Alabama Aid to Dependent Children statutes. These are some of the basic requirements of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. These basic principles were stated as early as 1896 in Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway Company v. Ellis, 165 U.S. 150, 155, 17 S.Ct. 255, 257, 41 L.Ed. 666:
The Supreme Court continued by pointing out that "arbitrary selection can never be justified by calling it classification." 165 U.S. at 159, 17 S.Ct. at 258. This doctrine of constitutional law has developed to the extent that its application may be stated as "rules." Those rules were reiterated in Morey v. Doud, 354 U.S. 457, 463-464, 77 S.Ct. 1344, 1349, 1 L.Ed.2d 1485 (1957).
For illustrations of the breadth of factual situations in which these rules apply, see also Rinaldi v. Yeager, 384 U.S. 305, 308, 309, 86 S.Ct. 1497, 16 L.Ed.2d 577 (1966); McLaughin v. State of Florida, 379 U.S. 184, 85 S.Ct. 283, 13 L.Ed.2d 222 (1964) and cases cited, 379 U.S. at 190, 191; Hernandez v. State of Texas, 347 U.S. 475, 478, 74 S.Ct. 667, 98 L.Ed. 866 (1954).
This Court is clear to the conclusion that Alabama's "substitute father" regulation creates precisely the type of classification prohibited by the Equal Protection Clause. The Alabama regulation directs that Aid to Dependent Children financial assistance not be given to a class of children who meet the statutory eligibility requirements and that this financial assistance be denied for an arbitrary reason—the alleged sexual behavior of the mother; such a reason is wholly unrelated to any purpose of the Aid to Dependent Children statutes. The basic purpose of the program (Title IV of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 601 et seq.) and the Alabama statute (Code of Alabama, Title 49, § 17) is to provide financial assistance to needy children who are deprived of the support and care of one of their parents. As a matter of fact, the Alabama statute requires the defendants to furnish Aid to Dependent Children financial assistance "on behalf of any needy child who is a dependent child as defined in the Federal Social Security Act." As to this aspect of the program, the federal act defines a "dependent child" as one who is "deprived of parental support or care by reason of the death, continued absence from the home, or physical or mental incapacity of a parent." Despite this clear legislative purpose of both the federal and Alabama statutes, the "substitute father" regulation directs that aid shall not be given to a particular class of needy dependent children who are deprived of parental support or care as a result of the death, or continuous absence of their father from the home, and who in all other respects meet the statutory eligibility requirements. In this regard, the Alabama regulation sets forth three situations in which needy dependent children, otherwise eligible, are to be denied this financial assistance:
It is quite clear, therefore, that the Alabama regulation is directed at a dependent child or children whose mother has non-marital sexual relations with a man or men—or, more broadly, whose mother's conduct is immoral, according to the Alabama authorities — and is not in anywise directed to either the support or care of the children by the mother or by the statutorily created "substitute father." This simply means that, through the promulgation of this "substitute father" regulation, the State of Alabama is looking primarily to the moral conduct of the mother and not to economic factors. The State quite candidly admits in its brief that:
The expressed interest of the State of Alabama in not desiring to underwrite financially or approve situations which are generally considered immoral is a
The approval or disapproval of sexual promiscuity is not here involved. What is involved is whether needy children can be deprived of public assistance through the use of a State regulation that creates classifications not rationally related to need and through the use of these classifications deprives approximately 16,000 Alabama children of financial assistance to which they are otherwise entitled. It should be noted that there is no vested legal right for anyone to receive public financial assistance; neither the United States nor the Alabama Constitution requires Alabama to grant financial assistance to needy dependent children. However, once Alabama undertakes to provide a statutory program of assistance, it must do so in conformity with the constitutional mandate of equal protection. Alabama cannot pick and choose the mothers and children it will aid through the use of some classifications which are not rationally related to the purpose of the applicable statutes. Anders v. State of California, 386 U.S. 738, 87 S.Ct. 1396, 18 L.Ed.2d 493 (1967); Swenson v. Bosler, 386 U.S. 258, 87 S.Ct. 996, 18 L.Ed.2d 33 (1967); Rinaldi v. Yeager, supra; Douglas v. People of State of California, 372 U.S. 353, 83 S.Ct. 814, 9 L.Ed.2d 811 (1963); Griffin v. People of State of Illinois, 351 U.S. 12, 76 S.Ct. 585, 100 L.Ed. 891, 55 A.L.R.2d 1055 (1956), reh. denied 351 U.S. 958, 76 S.Ct. 844, 100 L.Ed. 1480. The irrationality and the unreasonableness of the Alabama regulation is starkly revealed when it is realized that the regulation singles out from the Alabama needy dependent children a particular class who are illegitimate, or whose mothers engage in an illicit sexual relationship, or who have an illegitimate child born in their family, and for one or more of these reasons renders ineligible those children otherwise eligible to receive financial benefits under the Aid to Dependent Children program. This "substitute father" gains his parental status under the Alabama regulation not by any act of fatherhood to the children and not by any support furnished, but merely by having sexual relations with the mother. The regulation assumes that from the mother's alleged sexual relationship the man has assumed the role of the father to her children; this despite the fact that the man is not the father of the children,
This Court concludes that the Alabama "substitute father" regulation is an arbitrary and discriminatory classification which results in the denial of financial benefits to needy children who are clearly eligible and entitled to receive such benefits under both the federal and State statutes and constitutional regulations and that said children are denied for reasons unrelated to and in conflict with the purposes of these statutes. For this reason, on its face and as the evidence reflects it has been applied in this case, the Alabama "substitute father" regulation deprives those children of the equal protection of the laws in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
In view of the conclusions herein reached, it is not considered necessary or even appropriate to deal with plaintiffs' other contentions.
A formal order will be entered accordingly.
"§ 1983. Civil action for deprivation of rights
"Every person who, under color of any statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage, of any State or Territory, subjects, or causes to be subjected, any citizen of the United States or other person within the jurisdiction thereof to the deprivation of any rights, privileges, or immunities secured by the Constitution and laws, shall be liable to the party injured in an action at law, suit in equity, or other proper proceeding for redress. R.S. § 1979."
In this connection, the Alabama Commissioner, Mr. King, testified that since June 1964, when the "substitute father" regulation was promulgated, the Alabama Aid to Dependent Children rolls have been reduced by 16,000 children. Commissioner King's testimony on this point was as follows: