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King v. Smith

Significance, Further Readings


Robert K King, Commissioner, Department of Pensions and Security, et al.


Mrs. Sylvester Smith, et al.

Petitioner's Claim

That Alabama's regulation denying Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) payments to children based on the presence of a "substitute father" did not violate the Social Security Act and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

Mary Lee Strapp

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Martin Garbus

Justices for the Court

Hugo Lafayette Black, William J. Brennan, Jr., William O. Douglas, Abe Fortas, John Marshall Harlan II, Thurgood Marshall, Potter Stewart, Earl Warren (writing for the Court), Byron R. White

Justices Dissenting



Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

17 June 1968


The Court held that on statutory grounds the state of Alabama's restrictions excluding some children from receiving Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) exceeded the federal guidelines and wrongfully denied needy children the aid they were due. One concurring justice also found that the statutes violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.


The outcome of this case reinforced the original Social Security Act's definition of a parent, and the appropriate focus on the needs of children, rather than the morality of their mother. Justice Douglas's concurring opinion also stressed the idea that moral judgments have no protection under the Fourteenth Amendment, but should be addressed in other ways.

Related Cases

  • Levy v. Louisiana, 391 U.S. 68 (1968).
  • Allen v. Hettleman, 494 F.Supp. 854 (1980).
  • Sobky v. Smoley, 855 F.Supp. 1123 (1994).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1963 to 1972