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United States Supreme Court

397 U.S. 397

Rosado  v.  Wyman

 Argued: Nov. 19, 1969. --- Decided: April 6, 1970

Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring.

While I join this opinion of the Court, I add a few words.

* Our leading case on pendent jurisdiction is United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 721-729, 86 S.Ct. 1130, 1136-1140, 16 L.Ed.2d 218. In line with Gibbs, the courts below distinguished between the power to exercise pendent jurisdiction and the discretionary use of that power. Gibbs abandoned the 'single cause of action' test which had been the controlling standard under Hurn v. Oursler, 289 U.S. 238, 53 S.Ct. 586, 77 L.Ed. 1148, and instead held that pendent jurisdiction exists when '(t)he state and federal claims * * * derive from a common nucleus of operative fact' and 'if, considered without regard to their federal or state character, a plaintiff's claims are such that he would ordinarily be expected to try them all in one judicial proceeding.' 383 U.S., at 725, 86 S.Ct., at 1138.

The claims presented in this case attacked the New York statute on two grounds. The constitutional ground attacked the differential in the level of welfare payments between New York City and Nassau County. The statutory claim attacked the State's reduction in the overall level of payments, on the ground that it violated § 402(a)(23) of the Social Security Act, as amended, 81 Stat. 898, 42 U.S.C. § 602(a)(23) (1964 ed., Supp. IV), which requires States to make cost-of-living adjustments in the amounts used to determine need. No argument is made by any of the parties in this case that the three-judge court did not have pendent jurisdiction over the statutory claim. The sole basis for respondents' contention that pendent jurisdiction is not present in this case flows from the action of the three-judge court in remanding the case to the single district judge 'for such further proceedings as are appropriate.'

Yet if the three-judge court had pendent jurisdiction over the statutory claim, it had the power to decide that claim despite the dismissal of the constitutional claim. This Court held in United States v. Georgia Pub. Serv. Comm'n, 371 U.S. 285, 287-288, 83 S.Ct. 397, 399, 9 L.Ed.2d 317: 'Once (a three-judge court is) convened the case can be disposed of below or here on any ground, whether or not it would have justified the calling of a three-judge court.' See also Florida Lime & Avocado Growers, Inc. v. Jacobsen, 362 U.S. 73, 80-81, 80 S.Ct. 568, 573-574, 4 L.Ed.2d 568. There is no rule, however, holding that a three-judge court is required to decide all the claims presented in a suit properly before it, although the practice of a three-judge court remanding a case to the initial district judge for further proceedings seems to have been little used. See Landry v. Daley, D.C., 288 F.Supp. 194.

What united Judges Hays and Lumbard was the view that, as a matter of discretion, the District Court should have refused to exercise its pendent jurisdiction. The factors outlined in Gibbs to guide the discretionary exercise of pendent jurisdiction are those of 'judicial economy, convenience and fairness to litigants.' 383 U.S., at 726, 86 S.Ct., at 1139.

The main distinction between this case and Gibbs is that the pendent claim here was one of federal rather than state law. And it is clear from the opinion in Gibbs that the factor of federal-state comity is highly relevant in deciding whether or not the exercise of pendent jurisdiction is proper. Thus the Court stated: 'There may, on the other hand, be situations in which the state claim is so closely tied to questions of federal policy that the argument for exercise of pendent jurisdiction is particularly strong.' Id., at 727, 86 S.Ct., at 1139. Since the claim involved here is one of federal law, the reasons for the exercise of pendent jurisdiction are especially weighty, and exceptional circumstances should be required to prevent the exercise.

Moreover, incident to the issuance of a temporary restraining order, prior to the impaneling of the three-judge court, District Judge Weinstein had received and considered substantial testimony, affidavits, and briefs, so that he required no further hearings or testimony prior to issuing his preliminary injunction opinion three days after the case was remanded to him. In light of this fact, considerations of economy, convenience, and fairness all point to the exercise of pendent jurisdiction. See Moore v. New York Cotton Exch., 270 U.S. 593, 608-610, 46 S.Ct. 367, 370-371, 70 L.Ed. 750.

The fact that the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare is studying the relationship between the contested provision of the New York statute and the relevant section of the Social Security Act is irrelevant to the judicial problem. Once a State's AFDC plan is initially approved by the Secretary of HEW, federal funds are provided the State until the Secretary finds, after notice and opportunity for hearing to the State, that changes in the plan or the administration of the plan are in conflict with the federal requirements. Social Security Act § 404(a), 49 Stat. 628, as amended 81 Stat. 918, 42 U.S.C. § 604(a) (1964 ed., Supp. IV).

The statutory provisions for review by HEW of state AFDC plans [1] do not permit private individuals, namely, present or potential welfare recipients, to initiate or participate in these compliance hearings. Thus, there is no sense in which these individuals can be held to have failed to exhaust their administrative remedies by the fact that there has been no HEW determination on the compliance of a state statute with the federal requirements. In the present case, that problem was discussed in terms of the District Court's discretion to refuse to exercise pendent jurisdiction. The argument for such a refusal has little to comment it. HEW has been extremely reluctant to apply the drastic sanction of cutting off federal funds to States that are not complying with federal law. Instead, HEW usually settles its differences with the offending States through informal negotiations. See Note, Federal Judicial Review of State Welfare Practices, 67 Col.L.Rev. 84, 91-92 (1967). [2]

Whether HEW could provide a mechanism by which welfare recipients could theoretically get relief is immaterial. It has not done so, which means there is no basis for the refusal of federal courts to adjudicate the merits of these claims. Their refusal to act merely forces plaintiffs into the state courts which certainly are no more competent to decide the federal question than are the federal courts. The terms of the New York statute are clear, and there is no way in which a state court could interpret the challenged law in a way that would avoid the statutory claim pressed here.

State participation in federal welfare programs is not required. States may choose not to apply for federal assistance or may join in some, but not all, of the various programs, of which AFDC is only one. That a State may choose to refuse to comply with the federal requirements at the cost of losing federal funds is, of course, a risk that any welfare plaintiff takes. Such a risk was involved in King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309, 88 S.Ct. 2128, 20 L.Ed.2d 1118, which attacked Alabama's 'substitute father' regulation as inconsistent with the Social Security Act. As long as a State is receiving federal funds, however, it is under a legal requirement to comply with the federal conditions placed on the receipt of those funds; and individuals who are adversely affected by the failure of the State to comply with the federal requirements in distributing those federal funds are entitled to a judicial determination of such a claim. King v. Smith, supra. The duty of a State, which receives this federal bounty to comply with the conditions imposed by Congress was adverted to by Mr. Justice Cardozo who wrote for the Court in Steward Machine Co. v. Davis, 301 U.S. 548, 597-598, 57 S.Ct. 883, 895-896, 81 L.Ed. 1279, sustaining the constitutionality of the Social Security Act:

'Alabama is seeking and obtaining a credit of many millions in favor of her citizens out of the Treasury of the nation. Nowhere in our scheme of government-in the limitations express or implied of our Federal Constitution-do we find that she is prohibited from assenting to conditions that will assure a fair and just requital for benefits received.'

As he also said, speaking for the Court in Helvering v. Davis, 301 U.S. 619, 645, 57 S.Ct. 904, 910, 81 L.Ed. 1307, a companion case to Steward Machine Co.:

'When money is spent to promote the general welfare, the concept of welfare or the opposite is shaped by Congress, not the states.' Where the suit involves an alleged conflict between the state regulation and the federal law, neither the United States nor HEW is a necessary party to such an action. The wrong alleged is the State's failure to comply with federal requirements in its use of federal funds, not HEW's failure to withhold funds from the State.

Whether HEW should withhold federal funds is entrusted to it, at least as a preliminary matter, by § 404(a) of the Social Security Act. [3] Whether the courts have any role to perform beyond ruling on an alleged conflict between the state regulation and the federal law is a question we need not reach.

1st Street & East Capitol, N.W.

This relates to your conversation with me on December 29 concerning statements made in the last paragraph and footnote 55 on page 91 of volume 67, Columbia Law Review, January 1967, that this Department had not responded to a complaint and petition for hearing filed by Georgia and Arkansas claimants.

The author of the Law Review article is correct. There was, in fact, no response to the request for a conformity hearing. Had we replied to the letter, however, we would have stated, as we usually do in such cases, that conformity hearings are held only on the initiative of this Department when a determination has been made that the deficiencies in a state program are such that the state, under its applicable laws, cannot, or the responsible official, will not, voluntarily bring the state into compliance.

Letters such as the one you refer to may, however, trigger action by this Department when the contents bring to light conformity matters of which the Department has not been made aware * * * as a result of its own audits.

To date this Department has initiated conformity hearings in connection with the state plans of Nevada and Connecticut. In view of the fact that the imposition of sanctions against states which are found to be out of conformity are mandatory, we exert every effort at our command to bring a state into conformity without the necessity of a formal hearing.

If you have any further questions, please let us know.

Very truly yours,

Robert C. Mardian,

General Counsel.

Mr. Justice BLACK, with whom THE CHIEF JUSTICE joins, dissenting.


^1  The procedure by which HEW reviews state plans is set out in the opinion of the Court, at 406 n. 8.

^2  See Appendix to this concurrence.

^3  Section 404(a) of the Act provides: 'In the case of any State plan for aid and services to needy families with children which has been approved by the Secretary, if the Secretary, after reasonable notice and opportunity for hearing to the State agency administering or supervising the administration of such plan, finds-

'(1) that the plan has been so changed as to impose any residence requirement prohibited by section 602(b) of this title, or that in the administration of the plan any such prohibited requirement is imposed, with the knowledge of such State agency, in a substantial number of cases; or

'(2) that in the administration of the plan there is a failure to comply substantially with any provision required by section 602(a) of this title to be included in the plan;

'(T)he Secretary shall notify such State agency that further payments will not be made to the State (or in his discretion, that payments will be limited to categories under or parts of the State plan not affected by such failure) until the Secretary is satisfied that such prohibited requirement is no longer so imposed, and that there is no longer any such failure to comply. Until he is so satisfied he shall make no further payments to such State (or shall limit payments to categories under or parts of the State plan not affected by such failure).' 42 U.S.C. § 604(a) (1964 ed., Supp. IV).

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).