Lewis v. Martin

Lewis v. Martin
397 U.S. 552 (1970) |
SCOTUS decided 1970-04-20
Jurisdiction level:

AFDC aid can be granted under the Social Security Act only if “a parent” of the needy child is continually absent from the home, the term “parent” including only a person with a legal duty of support.

Result: Win
Importance:

State provisions conflict with the Social Security Act and federal HEW regulations thereunder providing that income from a nonadoptive stepfather without legal obligation of support or a MARS may not be treated as available to the children absent proof of actual contributions.


Law type: Civil
Topic(s): Public assistance and Unrelated persons
State of origin: CA
Attorneys:

Anthony G. Amsterdam (San Francisco Neighborhood Legal Assistance Foundation) argued the cause for appellants. On the brief were Rubin Tepper, Steven J. Antler, and Peter Sitkin.


Others involved: Francis X. Beytagh, Jr., argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal. On the brief were Solicitor General Griswold, Assistant Attorney General Ruckelshaus, Lawrence G. Wallace, and Alan S. Rosenthal. Martin Garbus and Carl Rachlin filed a brief for the Center on Social Welfare Policy & Law et al. as amici curiae urging reversal.
Organization role: Sponsor

Last modified: 2020-04-08 09:57
Case internal grade: A | Case internal status: OK |
Case internal status notes:
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CASE DETAILS

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

Syllabus

Appellants, recipients of Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) assistance, brought this suit challenging the validity of a California law and regulations that conclusively presume that the income of a nonadoptive stepfather or a man assuming the role of a spouse (MARS) is available to the children in computing the AFDC assistance to which they are entitled. Appellants contend that the state provisions conflict with the Social Security Act and Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW) regulations thereunder providing that income from a nonadoptive stepfather without legal obligation of support or a MARS may not be treated as available to the children absent proof of actual contributions. A three-judge District Court, holding the HEW regulations invalid, dismissed the complaint.

Held:

1. AFDC aid can be granted under the Social Security Act only if “a parent” of the needy child is continually absent from the home, the term “parent” including only a person with a legal duty of support. King v. Smith, 392 U. S. 309, 392 U. S. 313, 392 U. S. 327. Pp. 397 U. S. 557-558.

2. The HEW regulation validly implements the Act, since HEW could reasonably conclude that only a person as near as a real or adoptive father would be has the consensual relation to the family that makes it reliably certain that his income is actually available for support of the children in the household. Pp. 397 U. S. 558-560.

3. The State, which is foreclosed from arguing that the “assumption of income” provisions comport with the Act as applied to MARS, may seek to show on remand only that those provisions may be retained under the Act as applied to nonadoptive stepfathers if it can demonstrate that their legal obligation under state law is consistent with that under federal law. P. 397 U. S. 560.

312 F. Supp. 197, reversed and remanded.