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Sojourner A. v. New Jersey Department of Human Services

828 A.2d 306 (2003)

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Sojourner A. v. New Jersey Department of Human Services

New Jersey Supreme Court

828 A.2d 306 (2003)

Facts

In 1997, the New Jersey legislature enacted the Work First New Jersey Act, under which the amount of cash assistance a family may receive was determined at the time the family entered the welfare system. If a child was born more than 10 months after the family entered the welfare system, the amount of cash assistance the family received did not increase. However, the family was eligible to receive additional Medicaid and food-stamp benefits. Angela B. and Sojourner A. (plaintiffs) had additional children beyond the 10-month period and were not eligible to receive an increase in financial assistance. Sojourner became pregnant two more times after the birth of the additional child but terminated the pregnancy because of financial concerns. Sojourner and Angela filed suit against the New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) (defendant) on the ground that the cap was unconstitutional because it violated the Due Process Clause by interfering with the fundamental right to bear children and the Equal Protection Clause by treating poor children differently based on the child’s birth date. DHS moved for summary judgment, which the trial court granted, concluding that the state had a legitimate interest in ensuring people do not rely upon welfare and that the creation of financial-assistance caps bore a substantial relationship to this interest with only a slight imposition to privacy. The appellate division affirmed. The matter was appealed to the New Jersey Supreme Court.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Poritz, C.J.)

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