Goldberg v. Kelly

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In Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254 (1970), the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Due Process Clause prohibited the termination of welfare benefits unless the recipient first received a hearing to contest the termination. The Supreme Court also required adequate notice, the right to present evidence and cross-examine witnesses, the right to counsel, and a post-hearing written statement resolving both the factual and legal issues.

Justice William Brennan wrote the opinion for the court, with Chief Justice Warren Burger, Potter Stewart and Hugo Black dissenting. Justice Brennan concluded:

The decisionmaker's conclusion as to a recipient's eligibility must rest solely on the legal rules and evidence adduced at the hearing. Ohio Bell Tel. Co. v. PUC, 301 U.S. 292 (1937); United States v. Abilene & S. R. Co., 265 U.S. 274, 288-289 (1924). To demonstrate compliance with this elementary requirement, the decision maker should state the reasons for his determination and indicate the evidence he relied on, cf. Wichita R. & Light Co. v. PUC, 260 U.S. 48, 57-59 (1922), though his statement need not amount to a full opinion or even formal findings of fact and conclusions of law. And, of course, an impartial decision maker is essential. Cf. In re Murchison, 349 U.S. 133 (1955); Wong Yang Sung v. McGrath, 339 U.S. 33, 45-46 (1950).

The Republican reform of the welfare laws passed in 1996 overruled this decision by stating:[1]

No individual entitlement: This part shall not be interpreted to entitle any individual or family to assistance under any State program funded under this part."


  1. 42 U.S.C. § 601(b).