Norton v. Mathews
427 U.S. 524 (1976)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Norton v. Mathews, 427 U.S. 524 (1976)

Norton v. Mathews

No. 74-6212

Argued January 13, 1976

Decided June 29, 1976

427 U.S. 524

Syllabus

The Social Security Act provides child survivor benefits only to a child who was "dependent" upon the deceased insured parent at the time of the parent's death. Appellant illegitimate child, who did not come under any of the statutory presumptions of dependency to which legitimate children and illegitimate children under some circumstances are entitled under the Act, could establish his status as a dependent child only by showing that his father lived with him or was contributing to his support at the time of death. Appellant was administratively denied benefits because he could not make such a showing, his father having been killed in military service and never having assumed support. After this denial was upheld on administrative appeal, a class action was brought on appellant's behalf against appellee Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, seeking relief against denial of the benefits and claiming, inter alia, that, by creating a presumption of dependency, and consequent qualification for benefits, for legitimate children generally, and for illegitimate children under certain circumstances, but denying the presumption to appellant and others similarly situated, the Act discriminated against appellant's class in violation of the equal protection guarantee implicit in the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Ultimately, a three-judge District Court, convened when classwide injunctive relief was requested against the allegedly unconstitutional operation of the Act's presumptions of dependency, ruled in appellee's favor on the merits of the constitutional claim and granted summary judgment in his favor.

Held: Since the decision in Mathews v. Lucas, ante p. 427 U. S. 495, renders the merits of the present case a decided issue in favor of appellee and thus one no longer substantial in the jurisdictional sense, it is unnecessary to decide the jurisdictional question presented as to whether a three-judge court was properly convened upon appellant's demand for injunctive relief, and hence

Page 427 U. S. 525

whether this Court had jurisdiction over the direct appeal under 28 U.S.C. § 1253. Pp. 427 U. S. 528-533.

390 F.Supp. 1084, affirmed.

BLACKMUN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and STEWART, WHITE, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, post, p. 427 U. S. 533.

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