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Law School Case Brief

Flemming v. Nestor - 363 U.S. 603, 80 S. Ct. 1367 (1960)


The Social Security system may be accurately described as a form of social insurance enacted pursuant to Congress' power to spend money in aid of the "general welfare."


Section 202(n) of the Social Security Act ("Act") provided for termination of benefits payable to, or in certain cases in respect of, an alien deported on the ground, inter alia, of Communist Party membership. Plaintiff Ephram Nestor was an alien who had lived in the United States for 42 years and became eligible for old-age benefits under the Act. However, he was deported for having been a member of the communist party for six years while living in the United States. Thus, his benefits were terminated because he had violated one of the benefit-termination deportation grounds specified in § 202(n) of the Act. Nestor filed a lawsuit in federal direct court challenging the constitutionality of § 202(n) of the Act. Nestor filed a motion for summary judgment, which the district court granting. The court ruled that § 202(n) was unconstitutional under the due process clause in that it deprived Nestor of an accrued property right.


Was § 202(n) of the Social Security Act constitutional?




The Supreme Court of the United States reversed the district court's judgment. The Court held that § 202(n) was constitutional because social security benefits were not an accrued property right. Rather, Congress had exercised its plenary power to fix conditions under which aliens were permitted to enter and remain in the United States. Section 202(n) stated that the termination of benefits applied to those persons who were deported from the United States because of illegal entry, conviction of a crime, or subversive activity. Congress had explained social security benefits could not be used to support those deported for communist associations.

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