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Goldberg v. Kelly

Supreme Court of the United States

October 13, 1969, Argued ; March 23, 1970, Decided

No. 62

Opinion

 [*255]  [***292]  [**1014]    MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

 The question for decision is whether a State that terminates public assistance payments to a particular recipient without affording him the opportunity for an evidentiary hearing prior to termination denies the recipient procedural due process in violation of the Due Process Clause [****4]  of the Fourteenth Amendment.

This action was brought in the District Court for the Southern District of New York by residents of New  [*256]  York City receiving financial aid under the federally assisted program of Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) or under New York State's general Home Relief program. 1 [****5]  Their complaint alleged that the New York State and New York City officials administering these programs terminated, or were about to terminate, such aid without prior notice and hearing, thereby denying them due process of law. 2 At the time  [*257]  the suits were  [***293]  filed there was no requirement of prior notice or hearing of any kind before termination of financial aid. However, the State and city adopted procedures for notice and hearing after the suits were brought, and the plaintiffs, appellees here, then challenged the constitutional adequacy of those procedures.

 [****6]  The State Commissioner of Social Services amended the State Department of Social Services' Official Regulations to require that local social services officials proposing to discontinue or suspend a recipient's financial aid do so according to a procedure that conforms to either subdivision (a) or subdivision (b) of § 351.26 of the regulations as amended. 3 The City of New York  [*258]  elected to  [**1015]  promulgate a local procedure according to subdivision (b). That subdivision, so far as here pertinent, provides that the local procedure must include the giving of notice to the recipient of the reasons for a proposed discontinuance or suspension at least seven days prior to its effective date, with notice also that upon request the recipient may have the proposal reviewed by a local welfare official holding a position superior to that of the supervisor who approved the proposed discontinuance or suspension, and, further, that the recipient may submit, for purposes of the review, a written statement to demonstrate why his grant should not be discontinued or suspended. The decision by the reviewing official whether to discontinue or suspend aid must be made expeditiously,  [****7]  with written notice of the decision to the recipient. The section further expressly provides that "assistance shall not be discontinued or suspended prior to the  [***294]  date such notice of decision is sent to the recipient and his representative, if any, or prior to the proposed effective date of discontinuance or suspension, whichever occurs later."

 [****8]  Pursuant to subdivision (b), the New York City Department of Social Services promulgated Procedure No. 68-18. A caseworker who has doubts about the recipient's continued eligibility must first discuss them with the recipient. If the caseworker concludes that the recipient is no longer eligible, he recommends termination  [*259]  of aid to a unit supervisor. If the latter concurs, he sends the recipient a letter stating the reasons for proposing to terminate aid and notifying him that within seven days he may request that a higher official review the record, and may support the request with a written statement prepared personally or with the aid of an attorney or other person. If the reviewing official affirms the determination of ineligibility, aid is stopped immediately and the recipient is informed by letter of the reasons for the action. Appellees' challenge to this procedure emphasizes the absence of any provisions for the personal appearance of the recipient before the reviewing official,  [**1016]  for oral presentation of evidence, and for confrontation and cross-examination of adverse witnesses. 4 [****10]  However, the letter does inform the recipient that he may request [****9]  a post-termination "fair hearing." 5 This is a proceeding before an independent  [*260]  state hearing officer at which the recipient may appear personally, offer oral evidence, confront and cross-examine the witnesses against him, and have a record made of the hearing. If the recipient prevails at the "fair hearing" he is paid all funds erroneously withheld. 6 HEW Handbook,  [***295]  pt. IV, §§ 6200-6500; 18 NYCRR §§ 84.2-84.23. A recipient whose aid is not restored by a "fair hearing" decision may have judicial review. N. Y. Civil Practice Law and Rules, Art. 78 (1963). The recipient is so notified, 18 NYCRR § 84.16.

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397 U.S. 254 *; 90 S. Ct. 1011 **; 25 L. Ed. 2d 287 ***; 1970 U.S. LEXIS 80 ****

GOLDBERG, COMMISSIONER OF SOCIAL SERVICES OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK v. KELLY ET AL.

Prior History:  [****1]  APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK.

Disposition:  294 F.Supp. 893, affirmed.

CORE TERMS

recipient, termination, eligibility, fair hearing, regulations, evidentiary hearing, due process, pre-termination, notice, discontinuance, benefits, welfare recipient, subdivision, cases, cross-examination, reasons, governmental interest, judicial review, social services, post-termination, entitlements, caseworker, witnesses, powers, rights, rolls, written submission, public assistance, welfare benefits, decision maker

Governments, Legislation, Statutory Remedies & Rights, Public Health & Welfare Law, Social Security, Assistance to Families, General Overview, Labor & Employment Law, Disability & Unemployment Insurance, Unemployment Compensation, Benefit Entitlements, Constitutional Law, Fundamental Rights, Procedural Due Process, Scope of Protection, Eligibility, Administrative Law, Formal Adjudicatory Procedure, Hearings, Agency Adjudication, Review of Initial Decisions, Civil Procedure, Attorneys, Criminal Law & Procedure, Counsel, Right to Counsel