Graham v. Richardson

Graham, Commissioner, Department of Public Welfare of Arizona v. Richardson et al
403 U.S. 365 (1971) |
SCOTUS decided 1971-06-14
Jurisdiction level:

Arizona and Pennsylvania violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment when they denied welfare benefits to those who are not US citizens or to aliens who have not lived in the US for a certain number of years.

Result: Win

From Wikipedia: “The unanimous Court invalidated an Arizona law that required citizenship or 15 years of residence to receive welfare benefits. The state argued that rational basis review should apply, which would require the non-citizen to prove that the law served no conceivable legitimate state interest, or alternatively that the law was not rationally related to the government’s purpose. However, the court applied the strict scrutiny standard, holding, ‘Aliens as a class are a prime example of a ‘discrete and insular’ minority for whom such heightened judicial solicitude is appropriate.'”

Law type: Civil
Topic(s): Equal protection, Public assistance, and Undocumented immigrants
State of origin: AZ and PA

Anthony B. Ching (Legal Aid Society of Pima County) argued the cause and filed a brief for appellees in No. 609. Jonathan M. Stein (Community Legal Services, Philadelphia) argued the cause for appellees in No. 727, pro hac vice. With him on the brief were Harvey N. Schmidt and Jonathan Weiss.

Others involved: Mr. Weiss filed a brief for the Legal Services for the Elderly Poor Project of the Center on Social Welfare Policy and Law as amicus curiae urging affirmance in No. 609. Robert A. Sedler and Melvin L. Wulf filed a brief for the American Civil Liberties Union as amicus curiae urging affirmance in both cases. Briefs of amici curiae urging affirmance in No. 727 were filed by Edith Lowenstein for Migration and Refugee Services, U.S. Catholic Conference, Inc., et al., and by Jack Wasserman and Esther M. Kaufman for the Association of Immigration and Nationality Lawyers.
Organization role: Sponsor

Last modified: 2020-04-02 11:27
Case internal grade: A | Case internal status: OK |
Case internal status notes:
Lists: Important cases

For more info:


(The syllabus is not part of the opinion, but is a summary prepared by the court reporter as a convenience.)



State statutes, like the Arizona and Pennsylvania statutes here involved, that deny welfare benefits to resident aliens or to aliens who have not resided in the United States for a specified number of years are violative of the Equal Protection Clause and encroach upon the exclusive federal power over the entrance and residence of aliens; and there is no authorization for Arizona’s 15-year durational residency requirement in ยง 1402(b) of the Social Security Act. Pp. 403 U. S. 370-383.

313 F. Supp. 34 and 321 F. Supp. 250, affirmed.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACK, DOUGLAS, BRENNAN, STEWART, WHITE, and MARSHALL, JJ., joined. HARLAN, J., filed a statement joining in the judgment and in Parts III and IV of the Court’s opinion, post, p. 403 U. S. 383.

From the opinion

MR. JUSTICE BLACKMUN delivered the opinion of the Court.

These are welfare cases. They provide yet another aspect of the widening litigation in this area. [Footnote 1] The issue here is whether the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment prevents a State from conditioning welfare benefits either (a) upon the beneficiary’s possession of United States citizenship, or (b) if the beneficiary is an alien, upon his having resided in this country for a specified number of years. The facts are not in dispute.

This case, from Arizona, concerns the State’s participation in federal categorical assistance programs. These programs originate with the Social Security Act