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ALEXANDER v. SWANK

April 30, 1970

LOVERTA ALEXANDER, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF HER MINOR SON, JEROME ALEXANDER, AND ALL OTHER PERSONS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS, AND GEORGIA TOWNSEND, INDIVIDUALLY AND ON BEHALF OF HER DEPENDENT DAUGHTER, OMEGA MINOR, INTERVENING PLAINTIFFS,
v.
HAROLD O. SWANK, DIRECTOR, ILLINOIS DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC AID, DAVID L. DANIEL, DIRECTOR, COOK COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC AID, AND MAE WITHERS, SUPERVISOR, WOODLAWN DISTRICT OFFICE, COOK COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC AID, DEFENDANTS.



Before Swygert, Chief Circuit Judge, Perry and Marovitz, District Judges.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Swygert, Chief Judge.

  MEMORANDUM OPINION

This is a class action challenging the validity of Art. IV, section 4-1.1 of the Illinois Public Aid Code, Ill.Rev.Stat. ch. 23, § 4-1.1 (1967),*fn1 and Illinois Public Aid Regulation 150 issued pursuant thereto.*fn2 Section 4-1.1 provides that needy children who are deprived of parental support and are between eighteen and twenty-one years of age and in regular attendance in high school, vocational school, or technical training school are eligible to receive Aid to Families with Dependent Children (A.F.D.C.) benefits. Plaintiffs allege that section 4-1.1 is inconsistent with section 406(a)(2) of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 606(a)(2) and void under the Supremacy Clause.*fn3 They also assert that section 4-1.1 violates equal protection of the laws by failing to provide benefits to otherwise eligible children between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one who are attending college. We hold that section 4-1.1 is consistent with section 406(a)(2) of the Social Security Act and that it comports with the requirements of the fourteenth amendment. Accordingly, the relief requested by the plaintiffs must be denied.

This action was instituted on November 8, 1968 by plaintiff Loverta Alexander, individually and on behalf of her son, Jerome Alexander. Plaintiff's action was brought, pursuant to Rule 23(a), (b)(2) and (b)(3), Fed.R.Civ.P., on behalf of all persons similarly situated. The members of the plaintiff class include all children between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one and their parents or legal guardians who are denied A.F.D.C. benefits solely because said children are college or university students instead of high school, trade school, or vocational school students. The defendants, Harold O. Swank, David L. Daniel, and Mae Withers, are officials responsible for the administration of A.F.D.C. benefits in Illinois. On March 11, 1969 Georgia Townsend intervened as plaintiff both individually and on behalf of her minor daughter, Omega Minor, and as a member of the class described in the original complaint filed by Loverta Alexander.

Plaintiffs' complaint states a cause of action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 and is properly maintained as a class action in accordance with Rule 23, Fed.R.Civ.P. This court was correctly convened as a three-judge court pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2281, 2284 and jurisdiction to hear plaintiffs' action is proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1343(3), 2201.

Both plaintiffs and defendants have moved for summary judgment on the basis of material before us. All questions presented in this appeal involve issues of law and can be appropriately determined on the basis of the affidavits and pleadings. As a preliminary matter, defendants argue that the affidavits of plaintiffs demonstrate that Jerome Alexander and Omega Minor are not students in regular attendance in college and that they, therefore, lack standing to maintain this action on behalf of the plaintiff class. We disagree.

To possess standing to challenge the validity of a state statute the party seeking relief must allege "`such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions.' Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 204, 82 S.Ct. 691, 7 L.Ed.2d 663 (1962)." Flast v. Cohen, 392 U.S. 83, 99, 88 S.Ct. 1942, 20 L.Ed.2d 947 (1968). Under this standard a needy child between the ages of eighteen and twenty-one who merely wishes to attend college might possess a personal stake sufficient to establish the requisite adverseness necessary for standing to challenge section 4-1.1. It should be undisputed, however, that standing exists if a person is actually denied benefits for any period solely because he regularly attends college rather than high school or vocational school. Thus, plaintiffs need not show that they are presently entitled to A.F.D.C. payments. We think the pleadings and the affidavits sufficiently demonstrate that Jerome Alexander and Omega Minor regularly attended college in the past and were deprived of A.F.D.C. benefits as a result.

Section 4-1.1. provides that a high school or vocational school student must be in "regular attendance" in order to receive A.F.D.C. benefits. Regular attendance is defined as "attendance full time during the regular terms of such schools, or attendance part time * * * as may be authorized by rule of the Illinois Department for the purpose of permitting the child to engage in employment. * * *" The key to the interpretation of regular attendance is the meaning of "attendance full time." That term is not defined by the statute or by regulation of the Illinois Department of Public Aid.

Jerome Alexander graduated from high school on August 15, 1968, four days after he reached his eighteenth birthday. On September 11, 1968 he enrolled in fourteen hours of classes for the fall semester at Wilson Junior College in Chicago. Without express regulations to the contrary, we think this constitutes full time attendance. On October 4, 1968 defendant Mae Withers, superintendent of the Woodlawn District Office of the Cook County Department of Public Aid, acting pursuant to section 4-1.1 and Illinois Department of Public Aid Regulation 150 withdrew A.F.D.C. benefits to Jerome Alexander and his mother, Loverta Alexander. Defendants admit that the sole ground for withdrawing benefits to plaintiffs was the fact that Jerome was over eighteen and not attending high school or vocational school. Thus defendants' action on October 4, 1968 injured plaintiffs and provided them with standing to challenge the validity of section 4-1.1.

Omega Minor graduated from high school in August 1966. In September 1966 she enrolled at Southeast Junior College in courses providing thirteen hours credit. We believe that this is sufficient to constitute attendance full time within the meaning of section 4-1.1. On December 19, 1966 Omega Minor celebrated her eighteenth birthday. In January 1967, before the end of the fall term, A.F.D.C. benefits previously paid to Georgia Townsend for support of Omega were withdrawn. Again the sole reason for the cessation of benefits was plaintiff's failure to qualify for benefits under section 4-1.1. After aid was withdrawn Omega Minor continued to attend Southeast Junior College. We think the cessation of aid in January is sufficient to give plaintiff Townsend standing to challenge section 4-1.1.

Defendants cite numerous passages from plaintiffs' affidavits to demonstrate that plaintiffs are unsatisfactory students and that they were unwilling to perform part time work. In the absence of express regulations defining full time attendance under section 4-1.1, we think these considerations are irrelevant. With standing established we now turn to plaintiffs' substantive attacks on section 4-1.1.

I. Is section 4-1.1 consistent with the Social Security Act?

In 1935 Congress enacted Title IV of the Social Security Act, 42 U.S.C. § 601 to 644, as a federal grant-in-aid program designed to provide funds to states which establish Aid to Dependent Children Programs.*fn4 Section 406(a) of that title defines the class of dependent children for whom federal matching funds are available. A dependent child according to 406(a)(2) includes a child who is under eighteen or between eighteen and twenty-one years of age and a student regularly attending secondary school, college, or a course of vocational or technical training. Plaintiffs argue that states must adopt this definition in determining which persons are eligible for benefits under their own A.F.D.C. programs. We disagree.

The primary purposes of Title IV of the Social Security Act were expressed by Congress in section 401, 42 ...


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