Goldberg v. Kelly Case Brief

Facts of the case

John Kelly, acting on behalf of New York residents receiving financial assistance either under the federally-assisted program for Families with Dependent Children or under New York State’s home relief program, challenged the constitutionality of procedures for notice and termination of such aid. Although originally offering no official notice or opportunity for hearings to those whose aid was scheduled for termination, the State of New York implemented a hearing procedure after commencement of Kelly’s litigation.

Why is the case important?

Appellees were financial aid recipients whose benefits were terminated without being afforded a pre-termination hearing, which they challenged as a denial of due process.


Does a State that terminates public assistance benefits to a particular recipient without affording him an opportunity for an evidentiary hearing prior to termination deny the recipient due process of law?


Yes. Affirmed. Where welfare is concerned, only a pre-termination evidentiary hearing provides the recipient with procedural due process. For qualified recipients, welfare provides the only means to obtain essential food, clothing, housing and medical care. The crucial factor is that the termination of aid pending resolution of a controversy might deprive an eligible recipient of the very means by which to live while he waits. Dissent. No provision in the Constitution should paralyze the government’s efforts to protect itself against making payments to people who are not entitled to them. There are large numbers of undeserving welfare recipients, and States should be able to fight back against them. Concurrence. None.


On review the Court held that a pre-termination evidentiary hearing to produce an initial determination of the validity of the termination was necessary to satisfy procedural due process. The Court found that especially with welfare recipients who lacked independent resources, termination of benefits while the issue was being decided deprived recipients of the very means necessary to live. The Court noted that the need to concentrate upon finding the means for daily subsistence adversely affected the ability to seek redress from the termination, and the protection of due process outweighed the expense of a pre-termination hearing and continued benefits pending decisions.

  • Advocates: –
  • Appellant: Goldberg
  • Appellee: Kelly
  • DECIDED BY:Burger Court
  • Location: Manhattan Municipal Building
Citation: 397 US 254 (1970)
Argued: Oct 13, 1969
Decided: Mar 23, 1970
Goldberg v. Kelly Case Brief