Philbrook v. Glodgett (1975)

A state may not deny ANFC assistance because the unemployed fathers are merely eligible for unemployment compensation. A state regulation cannot be applied so as to conflict with the construction of the federal statute.

Citation: 421 U.S. 707 (1975)
Date decided: Jun 9, 1975
Longer case name: Philbrook, Commissioner, Department of Social Welfare v. Glodgett et al.
Law type: Civil
Jurisdiction level:Federal
State of origin: Vermont
Topic(s):Enforcement, Legislative construction, Public assistance, and Unemployment compensation
Lists:Important cases
Attorneys:Richard S. Kohn (Vermont Legal Aid) argued the cause and filed a brief for appellees in both cases.
Others involved:
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(The syllabus is not part of the opinion, but is a summary prepared by the court reporter as a convenience.)


(Together with No. 74-132, Weinberger, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare v. Glodgett et al., also on appeal from the same court.)


Under the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program of the Social Security Act (Act), the term “dependent child” was expanded to include children whose deprivation was caused by a parent’s unemployment. Section 407 (b) (2) (C) (ii) of the Act, as amended in 1968, makes this expanded definition applicable only if a state plan under the AFDC program denies aid to a dependent child so defined “with respect to any week for which such child’s father receives unemployment compensation.” Vermont, to qualify for federal funding under this unemployed-father program, promulgated a regulation under its participating Aid to Needy Families with Children (ANFC) program, defining an “unemployed father” as one who is, inter alia, out of work, provided “[h]e is not receiving Unemployment Compensation during the same week as assistance is granted.” Appellees, who are parents and children of Vermont families whose ANFC assistance was terminated or denied because the fathers were receiving unemployment compensation, filed suit against appellant Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Social Welfare and appellant Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare to enjoin enforcement of the federal statute and state regulation. Holding that it had jurisdiction over the parties under 28 U.S.C. 1343 (3), and construing 407 (b) (2) (C) (ii) as making actual payment of, rather than mere eligibility for, unemployment compensation the disqualifying factor for AFDC benefits, a three-judge District Court held that the Vermont regulation could not be applied so as to conflict with this construction of the federal statute, and entered an injunction to this effect.


1. The Vermont regulation, as applied to exclude unemployed fathers who are merely eligible for unemployment compensation [421 U.S. 707, 708] from receiving ANFC benefits, impermissibly conflicts with 407 (b) (2) (C) (ii), as correctly interpreted by the District Court. As evidenced by that provision’s legislative history, Congress did not intend the provision’s coverage to be at the State’s discretion once it elected to participate. Pp. 713-719.

2. This Court will not inquire into the question whether the District Court had jurisdiction over appellant Secretary but will make an exception to the general rule that this Court has a duty to so inquire, where the question has been inadequately briefed, the substantive issue has been decided in the State’s case, and the Secretary has stated he will comply with the District Court decision on the statutory issue if it is affirmed. The exercise of the District Court’s jurisdiction over the Secretary has resulted in no adjudication on the merits that could not have been just as properly made without the Secretary, and in no issuance of process against the Secretary that he has properly contended to be wrongful before this Court. Pp. 720-722.

368 F. Supp. 211, No. 73-1820, affirmed; No. 74-132, dismissed.

Last modified: 2022-12-27 12:56
Case internal grade: A | Case internal status: OK |
Case internal status notes: Fixed