327 F.Supp. 759 (D. Or 1971), aff'd, 404 U.S. 803, rehearing denied, 404 U.S. 961 |
Dist. Ct. Oregon decided 1971-05-03
A state may not impose a condition of eligibility for AFDC benefits unless that condition is authorized by the Social Security Act. SCOTUS affirmed.Result: Win
An Oregon regulation requiring local welfare administrators to terminate aid to families with dependent children where mothers refuse to cooperate with law enforcement officials in obtaining financial support from non-supporting fathers was held invalid.
Law type: Civil
Topic(s): Child support and Public assistance
State of origin: OR
Charles J. Merten, Portland, Or., Robert P. Vogel, Denver, Colo., Robert J. Altman, John H. Clough, Douglas S. Green, Legal Aid Service, Portland, Or., for plaintiffs.
Organization role: Sponsor
Last modified: 2020-04-09 04:43
Case internal grade: A | Case internal status: OK |
Case internal status notes: All done
Lists: Important cases and SCOTUS no opinion
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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.)
From the opinion
ALFRED T. GOODWIN, District Judge:
Plaintiffs, public welfare recipients, seek to enjoin the State of Oregon from enforcing a regulation which requires local welfare administrators to terminate aid to families with dependent children if mothers refuse to cooperate with law enforcement officials in obtaining financial support from nonsupporting fathers.
A three-judge court was convened because the plaintiffs seek to enjoin the enforcement of a state regulation.
Plaintiff Sharon Lee Meyers has received AFDC since November 1967. She now refuses to sign a complaint in a state proceeding against her husband. The Welfare Recovery Division has advised Mrs. Meyers that if she fails to sign the complaint her grant will be suspended.
The Social Security Act requires every state to seek contributions from persons legally responsible for the support of children receiving assistance. 42 U. S.C. § 602(a) (11). The requirement is known as NOLEO (Notice to Law Enforcement Officials). The NOLEO program was enlarged in 1968 by the addition to 42 U.S.C. § 602(a) of subsections (17), (18), (21), and (22), 81 Stat. 878, 879, 896, and 897. The federal regulations issued pursuant to these amendments are found in 45 C.F.R. § 220.48.
We are convinced that Congress intended the Public Welfare Division to consider only the income available to the mother and children in determining the amount of the AFDC grant. 45 C.F.R. § 233.20(a) (3) (ii) (c); Lewis v. Martin, 397 U.S. 552, 90 S. Ct. 1282, 25 L. Ed. 2d 561 (1970). The state Public Welfare Division was directed by Congress to secure the mother’s cooperation in developing potential income resources, but it was not authorized to terminate an AFDC grant (which is for children) to coerce the cooperation of a mother.
We therefore hold that Oregon’s NOLEO regulations are invalid. A state may not impose a condition of eligibility for AFDC benefits unless that condition is authorized by the Social Security Act.
We do not hold that the State of Oregon cannot use its NOLEO program to locate and collect support from absent parents. Neither do we hold that the State of Oregon may not seek the AFDC mother’s cooperation through means less drastic than the withdrawal of benefits from her children. We hold only that where federal money is being spent on state-administered welfare, the state may not impose upon the beneficiaries conditions other than those authorized by Congress.