The fundamental requisite of due process of law is the opportunity to be heard. The hearing must be at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner. These principles require that a recipient have timely and adequate notice detailing the reasons for a proposed termination, and an effective opportunity to defend by confronting any adverse witnesses and by presenting his own arguments and evidence orally. These rights are important in cases where recipients have challenged proposed terminations as resting on incorrect or misleading factual premises or on misapplication of rules or policies to the facts of particular cases.
Appellee residents of New York City, who were receiving financial aid under state or federally assisted welfare programs, instituted actions alleging that state and city welfare officials had terminated, or were about to terminate such aid without prior notice and hearing in violation of due process. After the commencement of such actions which were consolidated, the welfare authorities adopted procedures whereby the recipient, after informal discussion with a caseworker, was given at least 7 days' notice of proposed termination of payments, of his right to have the proposed termination reviewed by a higher official, and of his right to submit a written statement for purposes of such review, and whereby the recipient, after an adverse decision by the reviewing official and termination of payments, could obtain a post-termination hearing before an independent hearing officer, at which hearing he could appear personally, offer oral evidence, confront and cross- examine witnesses, and have a record made of the hearing. The plaintiffs challenged the constitutional adequacy of such procedures. The District Court held that only a pre-termination evidentiary hearing would satisfy due process requirements. On appeal, the Supreme Court of the United States affirmed
Was the termination procedure adopted by the welfare authorities a violation of appellees' right to due process?
On review the Court held that a pre-termination evidentiary hearing to produce an initial determination of the validity of the termination was necessary to satisfy procedural due process. The Court found that especially with welfare recipients who lacked independent resources, termination of benefits while the issue was being decided deprived recipients of the very means necessary to live. The Court noted that the need to concentrate upon finding the means for daily subsistence adversely affected the ability to seek redress from the termination, and the protection of due process outweighed the expense of a pre-termination hearing and continued benefits pending decisions.