Francis v. Davidson (1972)

Neither state nor federal regulations may discriminate without rational basis against certain children whose fathers happen to be out of work because of their own misconduct which justified their discharge by their employer, or because of a labor dispute. Because the fathers are unemployed, the families are entitled to AFDC assistance.

Citation: 340 F.Supp. 351 (D.C. Md. 1972), affirmed 409 U.S. 904 (1972)
Court: Dist. Ct. Maryland
Date decided: Jan 28, 1972
Longer case name: Robert FRANCIS, etc. v. Rita C. DAVIDSON, Secretary, Maryland Department of Employment and Social Services, and Raleigh C. Hobson, Director, Social Services Administration.
Law type: Civil
Jurisdiction level:Federal
State of origin: Maryland
Topic(s):Public assistance, Rational basis, and Retroactive benefits
Lists:Important cases and SCOTUS no opinion
Attorneys:C. Christopher Brown, Curtis L. Decker, and H. Maxwell Hersch, Baltimore, Md., for plaintiffs.
Others involved:
More info: Subsequent 1974 opinion by the District Court

Case Importance

Despite intervention by the US and local Chambers of Commerce, the plaintiffs won AFDC assistance in District Judge Kaufman’s opinion. After the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed his opinion later in 1972, the federal Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) tried to amend its regulation to allow the original state position to prevail. But, in 1974, the District Judge Kaufman in a follow-on opinion (379 F. Supp. 78 (D. Md. 1974)) found that both the federal and state regulations were inconsistent with the underlying federal law.

Case Details

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

Affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court on Oct. 16, 1972

From the opinion

FRANK A. KAUFMAN, District Judge.

This case involves constitutional and other issues arising in connection with the administration of the AFDC-E program.[1] Plaintiffs are fathers, who, on behalf of themselves and others similarly situated, allege that benefits under that program have been denied to their respective children by the Department of Employment and Social Services of the State of Maryland under Rule 200.X.A. (2) of that Department,[2] in violation of (a) 42 U.S.C. § 607[3] and 45 C.F.R. § 233.100(a),[4] and (b) the Fourteenth Amendment of the Federal Constitution. Defendants, named in their individual and representative capacities, are, respectively, the Secretary of the Maryland Department of Employment and Social Services and the Director of the Maryland Social Services Administration, a division of that Department.[5] HEW has submitted its views with regard to the issues in this case, pursuant to the request of this Court addressed to that agency in accordance with the strong policy suggestion stated by the Supreme Court of the United States in Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. 397, 90 S. Ct. 1207, 25 L. Ed. 2d 442 (1970).[6] The *355 United States Chamber of Commerce and the Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Baltimore were permitted to file amicus briefs and to take part in oral argument.[7]

Robert Francis, one of the two original plaintiffs in this case, became out of work on July 1, 1971 when the union, of which he was a member, called a strike at the plant at which he was working. The other original plaintiff, Franklin Wilkens, was discharged from his employment on June 22, 1971 because of gross misconduct. Wilkens subsequently obtained new employment and withdrew his complaint herein. At the time of Wilkens’ withdrawal, Edward Wright was granted leave to become a plaintiff herein.[8] Wright’s employer discharged him on May 12, 1971 for alleged gross misconduct (excessive absenteeism). Both Francis and Wright (as well as Wilkens during the period he was out of work) applied for and were denied AFDC-E benefits by the Department of Social Services of the City of Baltimore. Wright is still out of work. Francis went back to work on September 10, 1971 when the strike which had been called by his union ended.

In this case, plaintiffs urge that Maryland’s Rule 200.X.A.(2) discriminates without rational basis against certain children whose fathers happen to be out of work because of their own misconduct which justified their discharge by their employer, or because of a labor dispute. Plaintiffs stress the need to focus upon the welfare of each child and to disregard other factors such as whether the overall public policy of a state is furthered by denying AFDC-E benefits to children of such fathers. The State of Maryland, relying largely upon Dandridge v. Williams, supra, contends that Maryland, through the power granted to it to enact certain standards, on a cooperative basis with the Federal Government, possesses the right to make policy determinations of the type underlying the two applications of Maryland Rule 200.X.A.(2) which are challenged herein, and that it is not up to the courts to question the wisdom of the State of Maryland in so doing. The United States Chamber of Commerce and the *363 state and local Chambers of Commerce, as amici herein, urge this Court to hold the Maryland Rule, denying AFDC-E benefits to children of fathers out of work because of involvement in labor disputes, valid because a contrary rule would be in conflict, under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution, Article VI, with federal statutes enacted by the Congress in the field of labor relations.[21] The United States Chamber of Commerce unsuccessfully took that same position in ITT Lamp Division v. Minter, 435 F.2d 989 (1st Cir.), cert. denied, 402 U.S. 933, 91 S. Ct. 1526, 28 L. Ed. 2d 868 (1971), pet. for reh. denied 404 U.S. 874, 92 S. Ct. 27, 30 L. Ed. 2d 120, in which the Massachusetts AFDC-E program, which permits aid to fathers out of work because of involvement in labor disputes, was held not in conflict with any federal statutes. HEW, in its presentation to this Court, contends that a state is constitutionally permitted to follow both of the two Maryland practices under attack in this case, or practices contrary and opposite thereto. This Court believes that the HEW position is sound.

Dealing first with the constitutional challenge relating to labor disputes, this Court is of the opinion that rational bases exist for Maryland’s position denying AFDC-E benefits to children of fathers who are out of work because of labor disputes, just as there are rational reasons for the opposite view which has been adopted by most of the states.[22] Thus, the equal protection challenge to Maryland’s denial of benefits to such fathers must be rejected.

Nor has the Congress, by the enactment of labor laws having national scope, in any way, by the terms of those statutes or otherwise, indicated that those laws or the policies underlying them are intended to control the resolution of those opposing viewpoints of social welfare which underlie the differences between the Maryland and the contrary rules relating to the grant or denial of AFDC-E benefits to those out of work because of involvement in labor *364 disputes.
Whether retroactive payments are required under any HEW and/or Maryland regulations dealing with the subject of “corrected payments,” see Grubb v. Sterrett, supra, 315 F. Supp. at 995; Westberry v. Fisher, supra, 309 F.Supp. at 20-21; Robinson v. Washington, 302 F. Supp. 842, 844 (D.D.C.1968); and Solman v. Shapiro, 300 F. Supp. 409, 416 (D.Conn.1969), poses a question which has not been fully briefed or argued in this case. For that reason and, even more importantly, because this Court has confidence that if this Court’s holding herein becomes final, both HEW and the State of Maryland will take such steps, if any, as are required by their respective regulations in connection with the making of retroactive payments, this Court, at this time, does not believe it necessary or advisable to state any position or comment further in connection therewith, including whether or not the Eleventh Amendment bar has been lowered by any express or implicit undertaking by Maryland in connection with its acceptance of federal funds. If further developments lead any of the parties to believe that they are entitled to any relief in this Court with regard to the failure of either HEW and/or any Maryland or local administrative agency to make retroactive payments in accordance with its own regulations, further application for such relief may be timely made to this Court under such circumstances.

For the reasons set forth in this opinion, this Court holds that each of the plaintiffs and others respectively similarly situated are entitled to prospective relief only, but that, at least at this time, no decree or order would appear necessary to effectuate that prospective relief.

It is so decreed and ordered.

Last modified: 2022-12-27 12:47
Case internal grade: A | Case internal status: OK |
Case internal status notes: All done.