Sojourner A. v. New Jersey Department of Human Services

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April 2002
  • Workplace Equality and Economic Empowerment
  • Reproductive Rights
  • Litigation Case Document
Legal Momentum served as plaintiff co-counsel along with the Women's Rights Project of the ACLU and the firm Gibbons, del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione.

Summary of the Case

This class action lawuit in New Jersey state court challenged the state's Child Exclusion law, which denies welfare benefits to children born to mothers receiving welfare. Plaintiffs were the over thirty thousand mothers and children affected by the policy in New Jersey. The challenge was based on the state constitution's equal protection and right to privacy clauses. We claimed that the Child Exclusion law discriminates against a class of children by denying desperately needed subsistence benefits based solely on the timing of their birth, and interferes with the privacy rights of the mothers by using public funding to coerce their reproductive choices.

Decision

In September 1998, the trial judge denied defendants' motion to dismiss the case and ordered discovery to proceed. After extensive discovery, the court resolved both parties’ motions for summary judgment by granting judgment to defendants. The New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the trial court's decision, holding that the Child Exclusion does not violate the right to privacy or equal protection under the state constitution.  The New Jersey Supreme Court granted plaintiffs’ petition for certiorari, but upheld the child exclusion as constitutional.

 

Petition for Certification and Appendix