United States Department Of Agriculture v. Murry

413 U.S. 508 (1973)


Section 5 (b) of the Food Stamp Act provides in part: 'Any household which includes a member who has reached his eighteenth birthday and who is claimed as a dependent child for Federal income tax purposes by a taxpayer who is not a member of an eligible household, shall be ineligible to participate in any food stamp program established pursuant to this chapter during the tax period such dependency is claimed and for a period of one year after expiration of such tax period. . . .' This provision was generated by congressional concern over nonneedy households participating in the food stamp program, and abuses of the program by 'college students' and 'children of wealthy parents.' P has two sons and ten grandchildren in her household. Her monthly income is $ 57.50, which comes from her ex-husband as support for her sons. Her expenses far exceed her monthly income. By payment, however, of $ 11 she received $ 128 in food stamps. But she has now been denied food stamps because her ex-husband (who has remarried) had claimed her two sons and one grandchild as tax dependents in his 1971 income tax return. That claim, plus the fact that her eldest son is 19 years old, disqualified her household for food stamps under § 5 (b) of the Act. The process for claim denial is black and white. In the administration of the Act, a hearing is denied and is not available to present any evidence.  P and others brought a class action suit to enjoin the enforcement of the tax dependency provision of the Act in that §5(b) violated due process. The court ruled for Ps and enjoined enforcement; the Act creates 'an irrebuttable presumption contrary to fact.' The court held that the congressional concern about nonneedy households participating in the food stamp program and abuses of the program by 'college students, children of wealthy parents' goes far beyond that goal and its operation is inflexible. 'Households containing no college student, that had established clear eligibility for Food Stamps and which still remain in dire need and otherwise eligible are now denied stamps if it appears that a household member 18 years or older is claimed by someone as a tax dependent.' D appealed.