In NYC, children were
receiving Federal aid under a welfare program (Aid to Families with
Dependent Children). Without giving
prior notice, some people had their aid terminated.
There was no requirement of
notice or a pre-termination hearing. The checks just stopped coming.
Btw, this program was
administered by the States, but the money came from the Federal
Some of the people who had
their aid cut off sued, claiming that their right to due process under the 14th Amendment
had been violated.
State and city officials
changed their procedures after the lawsuit was filed. They offered to
provide seven days notice, and to have a post-termination hearing if
there were doubts.
The Trial Court found for the
plaintiffs. The City of New York appealed.
The Trial Court found that a
post-termination hearing was not sufficient.
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The City of New York appealed.
The US Supreme Court affirmed.
The US Supreme Court asked
three questions about due process;
whether, when, and what kind.
The Court found that welfare
benefits are a property interest,
and since the complainants had been deprived of a property interest, they
deserved due process.
(that's the whether)
Due process is required wherever someone is derived of
life, liberty or property.
This was a big change in
jurisprudence. Up until this case, things like welfare payments were
considered a gift and that there
was no property interest.
The Court found that under
the 14th Amendment, due
process could only be fulfilled by a pre-termination hearing.
(that's the when)
Because people needed the
money to live, having a hearing after terminating benefits was not
The Court found that while
the pre-termination hearing did not have to resemble a trial, it needed
to meet the following minimum procedural requirements (the what kind):
A oral hearing before an
impartial decision maker
The ability to get a lawyer
A compilation of a record
Use of that record as an
exclusive basis for decision
A formal set of findings
and conclusions (although not quite as extensive as what would happen in
In a dissent it was argued
that every dollar spent on a trial is one less dollar available to give to
the recipients, so it is in society's interest to limit the number of
This case represents a
high-water mater in what the minimum procedural requirements are. No case
before or since has required as much.
For comparison, in Goss
v. Lopez (419 U.S. 565) the Court
found that a kid facing suspension from school would have due process
satisfied simply by having notice and the opportunity to orally comment
prior to the suspension. That case represents the minimum due process procedural requirements the Court has ever
One thing conspicuously
missing from the Court's list of things due process requires is the ability to have free legal
counsel appointed to you. Rumor is that the Court left this out because
they were unsure how much it would cost.
Btw, the Court in this case
found that there was a requirement for cross-examination. That's based on
Constitutional due process, and
goes beyond the Statutory due process rights laid out in the Administrative Procedure Act
In general, the APA goes well beyond constitutional requirements
for due process, and it is very rare to find a due
process issue in Administrative Law
that is constitutionally based.