Goldberg v. Kelly
397 U.S. 254 (1970)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254 (1970)

Goldberg v. Kelly

No. 62

Argued October 13, 1969

Decided March 23, 1970

397 U.S. 254

Syllabus

Appellees are New York City residents receiving financial aid under the federally assisted Aid to Families with Dependent Children program or under New York State's general Home Relief program who allege that officials administering these programs terminated, or were about to terminate, such aid without prior notice and hearing, thereby denying them due process of law. The District Court held that only a pre-termination evidentiary hearing would satisfy the constitutional command, and rejected the argument of the welfare officials that the combination of the existing post-termination "fair hearing" and informal pre-termination review was sufficient.

Held:

1. Welfare benefits are a matter of statutory entitlement for persons qualified to receive them, and procedural due process is applicable to their termination. Pp. 397 U. S. 261-263.

2. The interest of the eligible recipient in the uninterrupted receipt of public assistance, which provides him with essential food, clothing, housing, and medical care, coupled with the State's interest that his payments not be erroneously terminated, clearly outweighs the State's competing concern to prevent any increase in its fiscal and administrative burdens. Pp. 397 U. S. 264-266.

3. A pre-termination evidentiary hearing is necessary to provide the welfare recipient with procedural due process. Pp. 397 U. S. 264, 397 U. S. 266-271.

(a) Such hearing need not take the form of a judicial or quasi-judicial trial, but the recipient must be provided with timely and adequate notice detailing the reasons for termination, and an effective opportunity to defend by confronting adverse witnesses and by presenting his own arguments and evidence orally before the decisionmaker. Pp. 397 U. S. 266-270.

Page 397 U. S. 255

(b) Counsel need not be furnished at the pre-termination hearing, but the recipient must be allowed to retain an attorney if he so desires. P. 397 U. S. 270.

(c) The decisionmaker need not file a full opinion or make formal findings of fact or conclusions of law, but should state the reason for his determination and indicate the evidence he relied on. P. 397 U. S. 271.

(d) The decisionmaker must be impartial, and, although prior involvement in some aspects of a case will not necessarily bar a welfare official from acting as decisionmaker, he should not have participated in making the determination under review. P. 397 U. S. 271.

294 F.Supp. 893, affirmed.

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