Fair Hearings Must Comply with Constitutionally Protected Due Process

by Gene Doyle, LMSW

In the landmark case of Goldberg v Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 264 (1970), brought by New York City public assistance recipients, the United States Supreme Court held that "when welfare is discontinued, only a pre-termination evidentiary hearing provides the recipient with procedural due process." To find reported decisions, see "Legal Research."

In the context of a Fair Hearing, the high court declared that due process "principles require that a recipient have timely and adequate notice detailing the reasons for a proposed termination, and an effective opportunity to defend by confronting any adverse witnesses and by presenting his own arguments and evidence orally. These rights are important in cases such as those before us, where recipients have challenged proposed terminations as resting on incorrect or misleading factual premises or on misapplication of rules or policies to the facts of particular cases" (footnote omitted). Id. 397 U.S. at 267-268.

In Goldberg and a companion case, Wheeler v Montgomery, 397 U.S. 280 (1970), the Supreme Court limited its due process holding to instances where "welfare" [i.e., public assistance] benefits were being discontinued [Goldberg] or suspended [Wheeler]. Just two months later, in Daniel v Goliday, 398 U.S. 73 (1970), the Supreme Court deferred to extend its due process holding to instances where welfare benefits were reduced.

Fortunately, the federal agency responsible for overseeing the various federally-funded public and medical assistance programs promulgated regulations, which extended the Goldberg/Wheeler due process protections to reductions determinations. See 45 CFR § 205.10.

These regulations imposed additional notice and hearing requirements on states that participated in the various federally-funded public and medical assistance programs. See 45 CFR § 205.10(a)(1)(ii) ["hearings shall meet the due process standards set forth in the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254 (1970) and the standards set forth in this section"]. Similar "adequate" notice standards were imposed on eligibility determinations. See 45 CFR § 206.10(a)(4).

In 1979, similar regulations were separately promulgated for the federally funded medical assistance (Medicaid) program. See  42 CFR Part 431, Subpart E. [Note: Previously, 45 CFR § 205.10 governed the Medicaid notice and hearing requirements.] These Medicaid regulations likewise require that "The hearing system must meet the due process standards set forth in Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254 (1970), and any additional standards specified in this subpart." 42 CFR § 431.205(d).

The Food Stamp Program, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), imposes similar notice and hearing requirements. See 7 CFR §§ 273.10(g) [eligibility notices], 273.13 [reduction/discontinuance notices] and 273.15 [fair hearings]. The U.S. Supreme Court has concluded that its due process holding in Goldberg also applies to the Food Stamp Program, now SNAP.

"Food-stamp benefits, like the welfare benefits at issue in Goldberg v Kelly, 397 U.S. 254 (1970), 'are a matter of statutory entitlement for persons qualified to receive them.' Id., at 262 (footnote omitted). Such entitlements are appropriately treated as a form of 'property' protected by the Due Process Clause; accordingly, the procedures that are employed in determining whether an individual may continue to participate in the statutory program must comply with the commands of the Constitution. Id., at 262-263" (footnote omitted).

Atkins v Parker, 472 U.S. 115, 128 (1985).

In Almenares v Wyman, 334 F.Supp. 512 (S.D.N.Y. 1971, aff'd as mod. 453 F.2d 1075 (2d Cir. 1971), cert. denied sub nom. Wyman v Almenares, 405 U.S. 944 (1972), New York State was ordered to conform its notice and hearing procedures to the federal requirements set forth in 45 CFR § 205.10.

As a result of Almenares, New York State promulgated new Fair Hearing regulations at 18 NYCRR Part 358, effective April 22, 1972. New York State promulgated a new 18 NYCRR Part 358, effective January 15, 1989, to govern Fair Hearings. The current version of 18 NYCRR Part 358 is available online.

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Article ID: 5
Last updated: 03 May, 2017
Revision: 19
Fair Hearing Related Litigation -> Fair Hearings Must Comply with Constitutionally Protected Due Process
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