Flemming v. Nestor

PETITIONER: Arthur Flemming, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
RESPONDENT: Ephram Nestor
LOCATION: United States District Court for the District of Columbia

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1958-1962)

CITATION: 363 US 603 (1960)
ARGUED: Feb 24, 1960
DECIDED: Jun 20, 1960

David Rein - For the Appellees
Mr John F. Davis - For the Appellant

Facts of the case

Ephram Nestor immigrated to the United States from Bulgaria in 1913 and became eligible for old-age benefits in 1955. In 1956, he was deported for having been a member of the Communist Party in the 1930s. When he was deported, his old-age benefits were terminated and notice was given to his wife, who remained in the country and was eligible to receive his benefits. Nestor sued in district court and argued that the termination of his benefits violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment in that it deprived him of an accrued property right. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of Nestor, and the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare directly appealed to the Supreme Court.



Does the termination of Social Security benefits when the recipient is deported violate the Fifth Amendment right to accrued property?

Media for Flemming v. Nestor

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 24, 1960 in Flemming v. Nestor

John F . Davis:

This case involves no issue of fact -- fraction but only a naked question of constitutional law.

The issue is simply whether Congress has power to cut off aliens' Social Security benefits when they are deported on the basis of membership in the Communist Party.

The case comes here on direct appeal from the District Court for the District of Columbia which held that Mr. Nestor's Social Security rights had become vested and could not be terminated.

Although this Court postponed the question of jurisdiction until argument, the appeal appears to fall squarely within the word and the spirit of the jurisdictional statute which authorizes direct appeals from a District Court decision holding an Act of Congress unconstitutional in a case in which the United States is a party.

The only apparent question on jurisdiction is whether or not the suit below should have been before a three-judge court rather than below -- before a single judge.

But this suit was instituted by Mr. Nestor pursuant to the specific provisions of the Social Security Act which provides a remedy for review of administrative decisions by a District Court and makes no provision for a three-judge court in that case.

The three-judge court provision of course comes into effect when someone attempts to enjoin the operation or execution of an Act of Congress.

It does not control where the action is under a specific review provision such as this and where there is no injunction against the operation of the Security Act -- Social Security Act involved.

Therefore, it seems clear to us that the District Court is a single judge, did have jurisdiction.

And since his action was specifically based upon unconstitutionality of an Act of Congress, this Court in turn appears to have jurisdiction.

Ephram Nestor came to this country from Bulgaria as a young man in 1913.For some reason, he never was naturalized.

But in 1933, he joined the Communist Party and he remained a member of that party at least until 1939.

On the basis of this Communist Party membership -- preceding this were commenced against him in 1953 to deport him to Bulgaria which was the country from which he had come.

And he was, in fact, deported in July of 1956.

Meanwhile, he had qualified for Social Security benefits and in fact, for several months had received Social Security benefits amounting to $55.60 a month.

Potter Stewart:

That was between 1953 and 1956 that he qualified for the benefits?

John F . Davis:

Well, he actually qualified as of November of 1955 and the first -- it was the -- the order came in 1956 just before he was deported.

So he received the payments for November of 1955, December and end of 1956 until he was deported.

As a specific --

Earl Warren:

How long had he been a member of the system, Mr. Smith?

John F . Davis:

He -- he has started an employment which was subject to social security in about 1936, I believe, it was early.

He was -- he was a painter by profession and some of his earlier employment came soon after the Act was enacted.

As was specifically provided by a 1954 amendment to the immigration law, the Attorney General notified the Social Security Administration when Nestor was deported.

And this is also specifically required by the law.

The payments for Social Security payments were then terminated.

Neither of these actions is subject to discretion.

It's automatically under the statutes that when a man is deported for this reason that his payment should -- shall be terminated.

Mr. Nestor appealed the termination of his -- of his -- of these benefits.

He was granted a hearing before a referee in the Social Security Administration.

The -- the decision was upheld by the referee and after having exhausted his administrative remedies, he then went to the District Court and asked for review of this decision.