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

Author:Kenneth L. Karst

Page 1200

Residents of New York receiving WELFARE BENEFITS brought suit challenging the state's procedures authorizing termination of a beneficiary's benefits without a prior hearing on his or her eligibility. The Supreme Court, 6?3, held that these procedures denied PROCEDURAL DUE PROCESS.

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For the majority, Justice WILLIAM J. BRENNAN rejected the state's argument that because welfare benefits were a "privilege" and not a "right," their termination could not deprive a beneficiary of "property" within the meaning of the due process clause. Those benefits, said Brennan, were "a matter of statutory entitlement for persons qualified to receive them" and thus qualified as "property" interests whose termination must satisfy the requirements of due process.

These requirements included an evidentiary hearing prior to the termination of welfare benefits, including timely notice of the reasons for the proposed termination, the right to retain counsel, opportunity to confront any adverse witnesses, and opportunity to present the beneficiary's own evidence. The procedural safeguards thus required approximated those available in judicial proceedings; the Court underscored the point by insisting on an impartial decision maker who would "state the reasons for his determination and indicate the evidence he relied on."

Goldberg was the leading decision extending the guarantees of procedural due process in civil proceedings beyond the protection of...

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