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WAGGONER v. ROSENN
January 29, 1968
Leila WAGGONER, Individually and Lenore Marie Waggoner, Anita Diane Waggoner, Susan Elaine Waggoner, Theresa Anne Waggoner, Ronald James Waggoner, Jamie Leah Waggoner, and Sharon Michelle Waggoner, by Leila Waggoner, their mother and next friend, all of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, individually and on behalf of all others similarly situated, Plaintiffs,
Max ROSENN, Secretary of Public Welfare of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Defendant
The opinion of the court was delivered by: KALODNER
In this class action plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of the one-year residency requirement imposed by Section 432(6) of the Pennsylvania Public Welfare Code, Act of June 13, 1967 P.L. (Act No. 21), as a condition of eligibility for public assistance grants to needy families with children.
They urge that the stated residency requirement (1) denies them due process, and equal protection of the laws accorded by the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution, and (2) abridge their "right to move freely from state to state" in violation of Art. I, Section 8 of the Constitution.
Defendant denies that the residency requirement of the Pennsylvania Public Welfare Code deprives plaintiffs of their constitutional rights as alleged and moves to dismiss the complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, Rule 12(b)(6), Fed.Rules Civ.Proc., 28 U.S.C.A., or, in the alternative, moves for summary judgment in his favor on the ground that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact. Rule 56. Ibid.
"* * * [The] Fourteenth Amendment permits the States a wide scope of discretion in enacting laws which affect some groups of citizens differently than others", and "The constitutional safeguard is offended only if the classification rests on grounds wholly irrelevant to the achievement of the State's objective."
"State legislatures are presumed to have acted within their constitutional power despite the fact that, in practice, their laws result in some inequality" and "A statutory discrimination will not be set aside if any state of facts reasonably may be conceived to justify it."
"Every presumption is to be indulged in favor of faithful compliance by Congress with the mandates of the fundamental law", and "Courts are reluctant to adjudge any statute in contravention of them."
"One who assails the classification" in a state statute "must carry the burden of showing that it does not rest upon any reasonable basis, but is essentially arbitrary."
"A statute is not invalid under the Constitution because it might have gone farther than it did * * *."
"* * * 'reform may take one step at a time, addressing itself to the phase of the problem which seems most acute to the legislative mind.'"
"Normally, the widest discretion is allowed the legislative judgment in determining whether to attack some, rather than all, of the manifestations of the evil aimed at; and normally that judgment is given the benefit of every conceivable circumstance which might suffice to characterize the classification as reasonable rather than arbitrary and invidious."
Federal courts are not endowed with "authority to determine whether the Congressional [legislative] judgment * * * is sound or equitable, or whether it comports well or ill with the purposes of the Act", and the "wisdom or unwisdom" of a statute is an irrelevant factor in determining the issue of its constitutionality.
The distilled essence of the stated principles is that legislatures are endowed with a wide range of discretion in enacting laws which affect some of its residents differently from others;
"every presumption" of constitutionality must be accorded by courts to a challenged law and the challenger bears the burden of proving that the law is irrational and "essentially arbitrary"; a statutory discrimination will not be declared unconstitutional "if any state of facts reasonably may be conceived to justify it"; the circumstance that a law "might have gone farther than it did" in remedying a public social problem does not make it unconstitutional; and the "wisdom or unwisdom", soundness or unsoundness of the legislative judgment are irrelevant considerations in determining the issue of constitutionality.
Applying the principles stated to the instant situation, we are of the opinion that the plaintiffs have failed to rebut the presumption of constitutionality of the challenged Pennsylvania statute by a "showing" (1) that "it does not rest upon any reasonable basis, but is essentially arbitrary", Lindsley v. Natural Carbonic Gas Co., 220 U.S. 61, 79, 31 S. Ct. 337, 340, 55 L. Ed. 369 (1911); and (2) that the Pennsylvania Legislature transgressed its permissible "wide scope of discretion" in enacting laws which affect some ...
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