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Goldberg v. Kelly

    Brief Fact Summary. Appellees, John Kelly et al., were New York residents who received assistance under Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and they challenged New York’s lack of an evidentiary hearing prior to the termination of benefits.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Procedural due process requires that when a right as integral as a right to welfare payments is taken away, there must be an evidentiary hearing prior to the termination of the right.

    Facts. Appellees were welfare recipients in the state of New York. When they first filed, New York had no evidentiary hearings that Appellees could use if their benefits were terminated. After this suit was initiated, New York adopted evidentiary hearings, but Appellees argued that they should be required to hold the hearings prior to terminating benefits, and that some of the provisions are too restrictive. Appellant Goldberg, the head of the state agency responsible for welfare payments, argued that evidentiary hearings prior to benefit termination would be a heavy financial burden on the state.

    Issue. The issue is whether Appellees are entitled to an evidentiary hearing prior to the termination of benefits.

    Held. The majority of the United States Supreme Court held that New York had to provide hearings prior to the termination of benefits. The benefits are of such importance to the people who receive them that the burden would be much heavier for them than the burden on the state. The Court also required that the hearings allow recipients to appear personally with an attorney if they choose to have one, and they should be allowed to confront the evidence or cross-examine witnesses. The state should also state the reasons for termination in their notice.

    Dissent. Supreme Court Justice Black argued that it is up to the legislature to provide procedural safeguards for the recipients and not the courts. Justice White also asserts that the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution should not be read so broadly as to grant rights to welfare recipients.

    Discussion. The Court equated the rights to welfare benefits as being as important a right as the right to proper tax exemptions or unemployment.


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