Shapiro v. Thompson
Decided on Apr. 21, 1969; 394 US 618


Welfare applicants claim one-year residency requirement violates Fifth Amendment

I. ISSUES II. CASE SUMMARY III. AMICI CURIAE IV. DECISION V. WIN OR LOSS?
I. ISSUES:

A. Issues Discussed: Civil Rights (State), Fourteenth Amendment  Fifth Amendment

B. Legal Question Presented:

Does the conditioning of AFDC financial aid on various residency requirements violate equal protection rights secured by Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment?

II. CASE SUMMARY:

A. Background:

Appellee Vivian Marie Thompson was a pregnant, nineteen-year-old mother of one child who applied for assistance under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program in Connecticut, after having recently moved from Massachusetts.  Connecticut denied her aid since she did not satisfy the state's one-year residency requirement.

This case was decided together with Washington v. Legrant and Reynolds v. Smith.

In Washington, three appellees Harrell, Brown, and Legrant, applied for assistance and were also denied AFDC aid on the ground that they had not resided in the District of Columbia for one year immediately preceding the filing of their application.

In Reynolds, two appellees, Smith and Foster, were denied AFDC aid on the sole ground that they had not been residents of Pennsylvania for at least a year prior to their applications as required by a Pennsylvania Welfare Code.

All the appellees brought actions before their respective District Courts, which held that the one-year requirement was unconstitutional as a denial of the right to equal protection secured by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

Shapiro, Commissioner of Welfare of Connecticut and other appellants in Washington v. Legrant and Reynolds v. Smith appealed to the US Supreme Court.

B. Counsel of Record:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Archibald Cox argued the cause for appellees in all three cases on the reargument. With him on the brief were Peter S. Smith and Howard Lesnick.

Brian L. Hollander argued the cause pro hac vice for appellee in Shapiro v. Thompson on the original argument. With him on the brief were Norman Dorsen and William D. Graham.

Mr. Smith argued the cause for appellees in Washington v. Legrant on the original argument.  With him on the brief were Joel J. Rabin, Jonathan Weiss and Joseph F. Dugan.

Thomas K. Gilhool argued the cause pro hac vice for appellees in Reynolds v. Smith on the original argument. With him on the brief were Harvey N. Schmidt, Paul Bender, and Mr. Lesnick.
Francis J. MacGregor, Assistant Attorney General of Connecticut, argued the cause for appellant in Shapiro v. Thompson on the original argument and on the reargument.

With him on the brief on the original argument was Robert K. Killian, Attorney General.

Richard W. Barton argued the cause for appellants in Washington v. Legrant on the original argument and on the reargument.  With him on the brief on the original argument were Charles T. Duncan and Hubert B. Pair.

William C. Sennett, Attorney General of Pennsylvania, argued the cause for appellants in Reynolds v. Smith on the original argument and on the reargument. With him on the brief on the reargument was Edgar R. Casper, Deputy Attorney General, and on the original argument were Mr. Casper and Edward Friedman.
C. The Arguments:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
Unavailable Unavailable
III. AMICI CURIAE:
ACLU Side
(Respondent/Appellee)
Opposing Side
(Petitioner/Appellant)
A. L. Wirin, Fred Okrand, Laurence R. Sperber, and Melvin L. Wulf filed a brief for the American Civil Liberties Union as amicus curiae, urging affirmance.

Briefs of amici curiae in support of appellee in Shapiro v. Thompson were filed by Arthur L. Schiff for Bexar County Legal Aid Association; by Eugene M. Swann for the Legal Aid Society of Alameda County.

Brief of amicus curiae in support of appellees in Washington v. Legrant was filed by John F. Nagle for the National Federation of the Blind.

Briefs of amici curiae in support of appellees in all three cases were filed by J. Lee Rankin and Stanley Buchsbaum for the City of New York; by Joseph B. Robison, Carlos Israels, and Carl Rachlin for the American Jewish Congress et al. and by Charles L. Hellman and Leah Marks for the Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law et al.
Lorna Lawhead Williams, Special Assistant Attorney General, argued the cause for the State of Iowa as amicus curiae in support of appellants in all three cases on the original argument and on the reargument.

With her on the briefs on the original argument was Richard C. Turner, Attorney General.

Briefs of amici curiae in support of appellant in Shapiro v. Thompson were filed by David P. Buckson, Attorney General and Ruth M. Ferrell, Deputy Attorney General, for the State of Delaware; by William B. Saxbe, Attorney General, Winifred A. Dunton, Assistant Attorney General, and Charles S. Lopeman for the State of Ohio; by Crawford C. Martin, Attorney General, Nola White, First Assistant Attorney General, A. J. Carubbi, Jr., Executive Assistant Attorney General and J. C. Davis, John Reeves, and Pat Bailey, Assistant Attorneys General, for the State of Texas and by Thomas C. Lynch, Attorney General and Elizabeth Palmer, Deputy Attorney General for the State of California.
IV. THE SUPREME COURT'S DECISION:

"We recognize that a State has a valid interest in preserving the fiscal integrity of its programs. It may legitimately attempt to limit its expenditures, whether for public assistance, public education, or any other program. But a State may not accomplish such a purpose by invidious distinctions between classes of its citizens.  It could not, for example, reduce expenditures for education by barring indigent children from its schools.  Similarly, in the cases before us, appellants must do more than show that denying welfare benefits to new residents saves money.  The saving of welfare costs cannot justify an otherwise invidious classification.

In sum, neither deterrence of indigents from migrating to the State nor limitation of welfare benefits to those regarded as contributing to the State is a constitutionally permissible state objective.

We conclude therefore that appellants in these cases do not use and have no need to use the one-year requirement for the governmental purposes suggested.  Thus, even under traditional equal protection tests a classification of welfare applicants according to whether they have lived in the State for one year would seem irrational and unconstitutional.  But, of course, the traditional criteria do not apply in these cases. Since the classification here touches on the fundamental right of interstate movement, its constitutionality must be judged by the stricter standard of whether it promotes a compelling state interest. Under this standard, the waiting-period requirement clearly violates the Equal Protection Clause.

The waiting-period requirement in the District of Columbia Code involved in is also unconstitutional even though it was adopted by Congress as an exercise of federal power. In terms of federal power, the discrimination created by the one-year requirement violates the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. '[W]hile the Fifth Amendment contains no equal protection clause, it does forbid discrimination that is `so unjustifiable as to be violative of due process.' Schneider v. Rusk. For the reasons we have stated in invalidating the Pennsylvania and Connecticut provisions, the District of Columbia provision is also invalid - the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment prohibits Congress from denying public assistance to poor persons otherwise eligible solely on the ground that they have not been residents of the District of Columbia for one year at the time their applications are filed. Accordingly, the judgments are affirmed."

Held: Judgments of the District Courts in all cases affirmed.
Justice Vote: 6 Pro vs. 3 Con

  • Brennan, W. Pro (Wrote majority opinion)
  • Fortas, A. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Marshall, T.  Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Douglas, W. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • White, B. Pro (Joined majority opinion)
  • Stewart, J. Pro (Wrote concurring opinion)
  • Warren, E. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Harlan, J. Con (Wrote dissenting opinion)
  • Black, H. Con (Joined Warren's dissent)
V. A WIN OR LOSS FOR THE ACLU?

The ACLU filed as amicus curiae in support of appellee in Shapiro v. Thompson, the US Supreme Court affirmed the District Court of Connecticut's judgment in a 6-3 vote giving the ACLU an apparent win.