Carleson v. Remillard (1972)

A needy family is eligible for AFDC when a parent is absent because of military service, and California’s regulation to the contrary is declared invalid because it denies appellees their Fourteenth Amendment rights of due process and equal protection and violates the Supremacy Clause.

Citation: 406 U.S. 598 (1972)
Date decided: Jun 7, 1972
Longer case name: Robert B. CARLESON et al., Appellants, v. Nancy REMILLARD, etc., et al.
Law type: Civil
Jurisdiction level:Federal
State of origin: California
Topic(s):Due process, Equal protection, Military service, Public assistance, and Supremacy clause
Lists:Important cases
Attorneys:Carmen L. Massey, by appointment of the Court, 405 U.S. 951, argued the cause and filed a brief for appellees pro hac vice.
Others involved:
More info:

Case Importance

A parent absent for military service is considered an absent parent for AFDC.

Case Details

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


This is a class action for injunctive and declaratory relief by a child and mother whose husband is away from home on military duty, challenging the validity of California’s Department of Social Welfare Regulation EAS § 42—350.11, pursuant to which they had been denied Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) benefits. Though California incorporates in its AFDC eligibility provisions the ‘continued absence’ concept of the Social Security Act, under which a dependent child ‘deprived of parental support . . . by reason of (a parent’s) continued absence from the home,’ is deemed eligible for AFDC benefits, EAS § 42—350.11 excludes absence because of military service from the definition of ‘continued absence.’ The District Court granted the relief sought. Held: Section 402(a)(10) of the Social Security Act imposes on each State participating in the AFDC program the requirement that benefits ‘shall be furnished with reasonable promptness to all eligible individuals.’ Under the Act the eligibility criterion of ‘continued absence’ of a parent from the home means that the parent may be absent for any reason. Consequently, that criterion applies to one who is absent by reason of military service, and California’s definition is invalid under the Supremacy Clause. Pp. 600—604.

325 F.Supp. 1272, affirmed.

From the opinion

Appellees are mother and child. The husband enlisted in the United States Army and served in Vietnam. The mother applied for Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC) benefits at a time when the amount of the monthly allotment she received by virtue of her husband’s military service was less than her ‘need’ as computed by the California agency and less than the monthly AFDC grant an adult with one child receives in California. She was denied relief. Although the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. 301 1394, grants aid to families with ‘dependent children,’ and includes in the term ‘dependent child’ one ‘who has been deprived of parental support or care by reason of . . . continued absence from the home,’ 42 U.S.C. 606(a), California construed ‘continued absence’ as not including military absence. It is unquestioned that her child is in fact ‘needy.’

When the husband’s allotment check was stopped, appellee again applied for AFDC benefits. She again was denied the benefits, this time because California had adopted a regulation1 which specifically prohibited the payment of AFDC benefits to needy families where the absence of a parent was due to military service.

This action is a class action seeking a declaration of the invalidity of the regulation and an injunction restraining its enforcement on the ground that it conflicts with the Social Security Act and denies appellees the Fourteenth Amendment rights of due process and equal protection.

A three-judge District Court was convened and by a divided vote granted the relief sought. 325 F.Supp. 1272. The case is here by appeal. 28 U.S.C. 1253, 2101(b)

Last modified: 2022-12-27 12:45
Case internal grade: A | Case internal status: OK |
Case internal status notes: