Goldberg v. Kelly

LOCATION: Manhattan Municipal Building

DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1969-1970)

CITATION: 397 US 254 (1970)
ARGUED: Oct 13, 1969
DECIDED: Mar 23, 1970

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.


Does a state's termination of public aid, without affording the beneficiary a hearing prior to termination, violate notions of procedural due process as set out in the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause?

Media for Goldberg v. Kelly

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 13, 1969 in Goldberg v. Kelly

Warren E. Burger:

And we will hear now Loflin against Albert.

Excuse me, Goldberg against Kelly.

Mr. Loflin and Mr. Albert as counsel.

Mr. Loflin.

John J. Loflin, Jr.:

May it please the Court.

In this case unlike the California case you just have described, there were two separate statutory forms of benefits involved.

The federal benefits which are substantially the same as those in the California case and what in New York is known as home relief.

The presence of the home relief recipients as plaintiffs in the cases that are here consolidated accounted for at least in part the decision of the court below to reach constitutional issues rather than leave the decision to rest upon a statutory basis.

They reasoned that even if they could resolve the case as to the federal beneficiaries, they would still have to face the problem of what to do about the state recipients.

So without pausing on that question, they went into the constitutional area.

These three cases here consolidated as per substantially identical relief, that is, as it went to the three-judge court below, plaintiffs were asking for a preliminary injunction requiring defendants to cease terminations without having a prior hearing which according to plaintiff's judgment would meet the standards of due process of law.

In addition, they wanted a declaratory judgment.

As we got to the three judge hearing stage, the declaratory judgment section of their relief focused upon a new New York State regulation which was in fact promulgated after the first of these cases was filed.

I would like to dwell for a moment on the sequence of events because it did have some influence I believe on the decisions below.

At the time the first of these cases was filed in New York, there was no pre-termination conference hearing procedure.

It was entirely possible and frequently happened that a beneficiary would simply receive a notice in saying your benefits have been cutoff, refer to your handbook or your pamphlet as to any rights you might have to have a fair hearing.

This led to unfortunate circumstances, unfortunate damage to a number of recipients and led directly to the filing of a lawsuit.

Shortly after the suit was filed, New York State followed California in adopting a pre-termination regulation.

Now this is a regulation which is here before this Court, Number 351.26.

As you may know in the State of New York, well over half of the total welfare recipients reside in the City of New York.

The state however promulgated this new regulation without consultation with the city; it reached the city officials in late February and was to become effective by its terms on March 1.

The state however did not provide hearing officers or training or any real guidelines much less any financing so that this machinery could be setup on what was at the time two or three days notice.

The city reacted to this by asking for conferences with the state officials to see if the impact of this new procedure on the city administration could be less.

In fact, after a series of conferences at which the difficulties of enforcing the new state regulation in a city with approximately 1 million people on welfare was pointed out.

The state resented its original regulation and then at the same time put out the regulation which is now before this Court.

It consists of two parts, 351.26 (a) and 351.26 (b).

A welfare district which New York City is one --

Warren E. Burger:

Excuse me counsel, where -- could you -- could find in the -- briefs are -- the record will be (Voice Overlap) --

John J. Loflin, Jr.:

Well, in the record its set forth at 127 (a).

And that's the regulation as finally adopted.