Flemming v. Nestor Case Brief

Facts of the Case

“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.”


Were Arkansas officials bound by federal court orders mandating desegregation?


“No. Justice John M. Harlan delivered the opinion for the 5-4 majority. The Supreme Court held that the Social Security system was meant to be a form of long-term social insurance that has to constantly adapt to the demands of a changing workforce, which prevents it from fitting within the framework of the right to accrued property. The Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment only bars government action that is arbitrary or lacking in rational justification, neither of which is true in this case. The Court also held that the termination of benefits was not punitive but rather the “denial of a non-contractual government benefit.”Justice Hugo L. Black wrote a dissenting opinion and argued that, because Nestor had been paying into the Social Security fund before he began receiving benefits, the government’s termination of his benefits was effectively depriving him of his property without just compensation. He also argued that both the deportation and termination of Nestor’s benefits, based solely on the fact that he was a member of the Communist Party 20 years previously when it was not illegal to do so, imposes an ex post facto law on him. In his separate dissenting opinion, Justice William O. Douglas argued that receiving Social Security benefits is a right earned by years of working and paying into the system, which Nestor did. The deprivation of those rights is a punishment that should only be reserved for those convicted of a crime. Justice William J. Brennan, Jr., also wrote a separate dissenting opinion in which he argued that the deprivation of Social Security benefits for certain offenses constituted a punishment without judicial trial in violation of the prohibition against ex post facto laws. Chief Justice Earl Warren, and Justice William O. Douglas joined in the dissent.”

Case Information

Citation: 363 US 603 (1960)
Argued: Feb 24, 1960
Decided: Jun 20, 1960
Case Brief: 1960