United States v. Clark,
445 U.S. 23 (1980)

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U.S. Supreme Court

United States v. Clark, 445 U.S. 23 (1980)

United States v. Clark

No. 78-1513

Argued October 31, 1979

Decided February 26, 1980

445 U.S. 23


Held: Under the provisions of the Civil Service Retirement Act whereby a deceased federal employee's legitimate children under 18 years of age qualify for survivors' benefits but "recognized natural" children under 18 may recover only if they "lived with the employee . . . in a regular parent-child relationship," a recognized natural child is entitled to survivors' benefits when the child has lived with the deceased employee in a "regular parent-child relationship," regardless of whether the child was living with the employee at the time of his death. This construction of the statutory provisions is fair and reasonable in light of the language, purpose, and history of the enactment and avoids a serious constitutional question under the equal protection component of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Even if the "lived with" requirement is assumed to serve as a device to thwart fraudulent claims of dependency or parentage or to promote efficient administration by facilitating the prompt identification of eligible annuitants, to construe the provision as applying only to illegitimate children living with the employee at the time of death would raise serious equal protection problems that this Court must seek to avoid by adopting a saving statutory construction not at odds with fundamental legislative purposes. Pp. 445 U. S. 26-34.

218 Ct.Cl. 705, 590 F.2d 343, affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BURGER, C.J., joined, post, p. 445 U. S. 34. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEWART, J., joined, post, p. 445 U. S. 36.

Page 445 U. S. 24

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