MATHEWS v. ELDRIDGE government interests v. private interests

government interests v. private interests
Social Security Administration
• Established in 1935 during the Great
Depression under President Franklin
Roosevelt in an effort to promote greater
economic security for the elderly
– social insurance, to those who paid into the
system, instead of social welfare
– pay retired workers age 65 or older a continuing
income after retirement
Soup kitchen during Great Depression
Depression-era family
President Roosevelt upon signing
Social Security Act
• "We can never insure one hundred percent of
the population against one hundred percent
of the hazards and vicissitudes of life, but we
have tried to frame a law which will give some
measure of protection to the average citizen
and to his family against the loss of a job and
against poverty-ridden old age."
• Disability insurance added to the Social
Security program in 1954
– Pays benefits to workers who are unable to work
due to a medical condition, either physical or
– To qualify for benefits, the worker must have
worked in jobs covered by Social Security and
must have a medical condition that meets Social
Security's definition of disability.
Disability cont.
• SS’s definition of disability = an individual must be unable to
engage in any "Substantial Gainful Activity" (SGA) due to any
medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s)
which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted
or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less
than 12 months. In addition to being unable to perform his or
her previous work, the person cannot, considering age,
education, and work experience, engage in any other kind of
SGA that exists in the national economy .
• Eligibility for monthly disability benefits begins five months
after SS determines the onset of disability.
• Disability benefits stop if SS decides that the recipient’s
medical condition has improved to the point that the recipient
is no longer disabled.
Reconsideration/appeals procedure
• After an individual files a Social Security disability claim, the case is sent to
a disability examiner at the Disability Determination agency in the
individual’s state.
• The examiner, working with a doctor, makes the initial decision on the
claim. If the claim is denied and the individual requests reconsideration,
the case is then sent to another disability examiner at the Disability
Determination agency, where it goes through much the same process.
• If a claim is denied at reconsideration, the claimant may then request a
hearing. At this point, the case is sent to an Administrative Law Judge who
works for Social Security.
• The Administrative Law Judge makes an independent decision upon the
• An appeal of the ALJ’s decision goes to the Appeals Council.
• After being denied by the Appeals Council, the claimant can file a civil
action in the United States District Court, requesting review of Social
Security's decision.
What is Due Process?
• In United States law, adopted from English
Law, due process (more fully due process of
law) is the principle that the government
must respect all of a person's legal rights
instead of just some or most of those legal
rights when the government deprives a
person of life, liberty, or property.
• Due process has also been frequently interpreted as
placing limitations on laws and legal proceedings, in order
for judges instead of legislators to guarantee fundamental
fairness, justice, and liberty. The latter interpretation is
analogous to the concepts of natural justice and
procedural justice used in various other jurisdictions.
424 U.S. 319 (1976)
 “[R] esolution of the issue whether the
administrative procedures provided here are
constitutionally sufficient requires analysis of
the governmental and private interests that
are affected.” 424 U.S. at 334
424 U.S. 254 (1970)
 Goldberg was decided 6 years prior to Matthews.
 In Goldberg, the situation was similar to that
in Mathews except that the benefits at issue
were welfare instead of disability
 The Court in Goldberg held that “the extent to
which procedural due process must be
afforded to the recipient is influenced by the
extent to which he may be condemned to
suffer grievous loss.” 397 U.S. at 262-263
Goldberg holding
• Because of the “individual’s overpowering
need in this unique situation not to be
wrongly deprived of assistance”, the court
found that to satisfy due process the recipient
was entitled to a full evidentiary hearing prior
to termination of benefits
Shift on Supreme Court
• Goldberg 1970
– Majority: Brennan, Douglas, Harlan, White,
– Minority: Burger, Stewart, Black
• Mathews 1976
– Majority: Powell, Burger, Stewart, White,
Blackmun, Rehnquist
– Minority: Brennan, Marshall
Mathews FACTS
• George Eldridge was first awarded disability benefits
following an evidentiary hearing in June of 1968.
• He was found permanently disabled due to chronic
anxiety and back strain, and was subsequently
diagnosed with diabetes.
• He was advised that the award of disability benefits
would be reviewed in June 1969
• In February 1970, it was determined that his
disability had ceased and his benefits were
FACTS continued...
• Eldridge requested a reconsideration hearing in April 1970.
• In August 1970, through his lawyer Donald Earls, he filed suit
in district court seeking a hearing before termination of
• The district court ordered that payment of disability benefits
be continued during the pendency of his claim.
• In March 1971 he was granted an evidentiary hearing. The
hearing officer determined that his disability had not ceased
and ordered his benefits continued.
• Time elapsed between the decision that no longer disabled
and the evidentiary hearing? 18 months.
FACTS continued...
• In March 1972, the state again reviewed Mr. Eldridge’s
eligibility in the form of a mailed questionnaire.
• Mr. Eldridge indicated on the questionnaire that his
disability had not ceased & provided medical sources in
• The state obtained medical reports from his physicians
and psychiatrist. Based on that, the state again
determined that his disability had ceased as of May ‘72.
• Notification of the decision was sent to Mr. Eldridge.
• He was advised of the agency’s reasoning, and given an
opportunity to submit any additional information.
• “the legal criterion for Title II disability benefits is
whether the beneficiary continues to be unable to
engage in substantial gainful activity . . . and to cut
off payments erroneously may create a loss as
grievous as that which concerned the Supreme Court
in the cases of welfare and old age beneficiaries.”
• “In light of a prior hearing being required in cases of
interests which are seemingly less substantial than
receiving disability benefits this court can find no
basis for considering disability payments such an
unusual situation as to require a lesser due process
FACTS continued...
• Mr. Eldridge replied to the agency indicating that they
already had enough evidence to find that his condition was
the same.
• The state agency then made the FINAL determination that
he ceased to be disabled in May 1972.
• The Social Security Administration notified him in July 1972
that his disability benefits would stop at the end of July.
• The notification advised him that he could seek
reconsideration of the determination within six months.
• Mr. Eldridge filed suit against the Secretary of Health,
Education and Welfare, which oversees the Social Security
Administration, challenging the constitutionality of its
administrative procedures.
• Mr. Eldridge was a widower with dependant
• Carl E. McAfee, Attorney for Mr. Eldridge: “the
hardships that Mr. Eldridge and his family
suffered without his benefits were very
• Mr. Eldridge’s house was foreclosed and all of
his furniture was repossessed.
Supreme Court
• In Mathews, the Supreme Court expanded the
balancing test it used in Goldberg v. Kelly to
include three factors.
Supreme Court
• 1) The private interest that will be affected by the
government’s action
• 2) The risk of an erroneous deprivation of such
interest through the procedures used and the
probable value, if any, of additional or substitute
procedural safeguards
• 3) The government’s interest, including the function
involved and the fiscal and administrative burdens
that the additional or substitute procedural
requirement would entail
Distinguished from Goldberg
• The Court in Eldridge distinguished the facts
from Goldberg on the basis that a
determination on disability is an objective
medical decision made by a “team” consisting
of a physician and non-medical person
specifically trained in disability evaluation, and
based on “unbiased medical reports.” 424 U.S.
at 344. Whereas a determination of need for
welfare is not as sharply focused and easily
• But the Court itself recognized that “[t]he
decision is not purely a question of the
accuracy of a medical diagnosis since the
ultimate issue which the state agency must
resolve is whether in light of the particular
worker’s age, education, and work experience
he cannot engage in any substantial gainful
work which exists in the national economy...”
Written Presentation Enough?
• The court reconciles this contradiction by
stating that these “characteristics [are]
amendable to effective written presentation.”
• But even just considering objective medical
evidence can be cumbersome. The American
Medical Association labeled disability “an elusive
concept.” Amicus Br. 12.
Distinguished from Goldberg II
• The Court also distinguished welfare benefits
from disability benefits. It found that eligibility for
disability benefits, in contrast to welfare benefits,
is not based on financial need. Because of this,
the Court found that “the disabled worker’s need
is likely to be less than that of a welfare
recipient”. The Court also suggested that
because a person whose disability benefits have
been cut off could still go on welfare, the need for
a pre-hearing is not as great.
• Mr. Eldridge’s case emphasized the nonreliability of the termination procedures.
• Mr. Eldridge’s case had already been reversed
multiple times.
• Even after the Supreme Court’s decision, Mr.
Eldridge’s benefits WERE eventually restored.
The difference was that he was forced to live
without the benefits during the pendency of
his case.
Reversal Rate
• According to the Amicus Brief filed on behalf
of the Plaintiff, in 1973 58.6% of all appealed
decisions terminating Social Security disability
benefits were reversed following evidentiary
• According to Respondent’s Brief, appealed
reconsideration decisions were reversed at a
rate of 3.3%.
58.6%? OR 3.3%?
• “Bare statistics rarely provide a satisfactory measure
of the fairness of a decisionmaking process. Their
adequacy is especially suspect here since the
administrative review system is operated on an open
file basis.”
• “In this context the value of reversal rate statistics as
one means of evaluating the adequacy of the
pretermination process is diminished. Thus, although
we view such information as relevant, it is certainly
not controlling in this case.”
Mathews v. Eldridge was a landmark decision that
established the analytical framework for
procedural due process issues.
•The Court reversed the lower court, because procedures in
place were sufficient to satisfy due process, and the state of
persons receiving disability benefits was typically not as
serious as that of welfare recipients.
Justice Powell delivered the Opinion.
• Justice Stevens took no part in the consideration or
decision of this case.
• Justice Brennan delivered the dissenting opinion
with whom Justice Marshall concurs.
The Supreme Court Decision
• Fundamental requirement of due process is opportunity to be heard at
meaningful time and in meaningful manner.
• Evidentiary hearing is not required prior to termination of social
security disability benefits - present administrative procedures
terminations fully comport with due process.
• Degree of potential deprivation.
• Financial cost alone- is not controlling weight in determining whether
due process requires particular procedural safeguard prior to some
administrative decision.
• Government's interest-is factor which must be weighed.
• The nature of the hearing must be commensurate with the interest
affected, taking into account the states’ administrative needs: All courts
must now employ the Mathews balancing test to determine the type of
procedures that are required by due process when a governmental action
would deprive an individual of a constitutionally protected liberty or
property interest.
What is the balancing test?
•The Court in Mathews, noting that due process
was flexible and called for such procedural
protections as the particular situation demands,
set forth a three-part test for analyzing procedural
due process issues like the constitutional
sufficiency of administrative procedures prior to
the initial termination of benefits and pending
o If X+Y>Z
which means the current
protection for the due process is
not enough
o If X+Y<Z
Which means just the contrary
X= private interest that will be affected by official action
Y= the risk of erroneous deprivation of such interest through the procedures used and
the probable value, if any, of additional or substitute procedural safeguards
Z= government's interest, including function involved and fiscal and administrative
burdens that additional or substitute procedural requirements would entail
Formulation cont.
- That is A’s property may probably be infringed upon by the
inappropriate action of the government, which is not
providing a hearing before the termination of his interests.
- Suppose that the loss of interests of A will probably be
about $5,000,000, because no hearing is provided. That
means the percentage of the government to make mistakes
on such issues will grow 2 percentages higher. Meanwhile, if
the government offers the prior hearing for everyone which
will cost them more than $100,000 per person, in this
circumstance, the process of prior hearing does not meet the
satisfaction of the due process of law which is written in the
Comments on the balancing test
Lydia Lazar
“It seems to me that the Court has tried, through the
balancing test in Mathews, to help create a more
predictable environment for plaintiffs to evaluate their
chances of success in litigation.
The Court has created a set of criteria to consider
and to balance one against the other in a fact-based
approach to problem solving case by case. This is the
heart of the common law method, and a balancing test
is uniquely well suited to calibrate and reconcile
competing interests.
The words “due process” alone do not provide
sufficient guidance for adjudication of claims relating to
entitlements or other matters. If for some reason the
balancing test is challenged as no longer suited to the
conditions facing society, and if that challenge is
supported by sufficient empirical data, I am certain the
Court would reconsider the test.”
Carl E. McAfee
• “the facts just were what they were, and you can’t
change those facts, but for some reason the
Supreme Court decided the way they did, maybe
they saw the process independent of the facts, I
don’t know . . . .”
• “the hardships that Mr. Eldridge and his family
suffered without his benefits were very evident, and
the fact that every time he WAS given an opportunity
to be heard his benefits were reinstated . . . it just
reinforced his argument.
Justice Brennan’s dissenting opinion:
“For the reasons stated in my dissenting opinion in Richardson v.
Wright, I agree with the District Court and the Court of Appeals that,
prior to termination of benefits, Eldridge must be afforded an
evidentiary hearing of the type required for welfare beneficiaries
under Title IV of the Social Security Act. I would add that the Court's
consideration that a discontinuance of disability benefits may cause
the recipient to suffer only a limited deprivation is no argument. It is
speculative. Moreover, the very legislative determination to provide
disability benefits, without any prerequisite determination of need
in fact, presumes a need by the recipient which is not this Court's
function to denigrate. It is also no argument that a worker, who has
been placed in the untenable position of having been denied
disability benefits, may still seek other forms of public assistance.”
The due process of law
• The phrase “due process of law” has been mentioned twice in
the constitution, in the Fifth and Fourteenth
Amendments. These two Amendments can be said to be the
vital ones of the Bill of Rights.
• A long history
• Significant position
No unanimous opinion
•And there’s no definite rules which can be appropriately
apply to the cases that are concerned about the due process
of law.
Fifth Amendment to the United
States Constitution
“ No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or
otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or
indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the
land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual
service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any
person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in
jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any
criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be
deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process
of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use,
without just compensation. ”
Fourteenth Amendment to the
United States Constitution
“ Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United
States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of
the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No
State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the
privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor
shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property,
without due process of law; nor deny to any person within
its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. ”
The Court has kept using the balancing test established in
Mathews v. Eldridge:
Lassister v. Department of Social Service,452 U.S.18(1981)
Schweker v. Mc Clure, 456 U. S. 188(1982)
Cleveland Board of Education v. Loudermill, 470 U. S. 532(1985)
Wallkers v. National Association of Radiation Survioes. 473 U. S. 305(1985)
In the 1990s, the Supreme Court in the Doehr’s case articulated the
balancing test which made it quite tenable.
• The contexts are different. Mathews’ is about Social Security benefits. Doehr’s
is about the possibility of private damage. In the former case, the actor of the
relinquishment is the executive branch, while in the later one, it’s the court.
• In Mathews’, the Court denied the need of a prior hearing by using the
balancing test, while in Doehr, the Court held that it is unconstitutional to not
provide a prior hearing according to the balancing test.
Application of Mathews v. Eldridge
• In California v. Sanders (1977) the Supreme Court noted that a decision
denying judicial jurisdiction in Eldridge would effectively have closed the
federal forum to the adjudication of reasonable constitutional claims. Thus
Eldridge merely adhered to the well-established principle that when
constitutional questions are in issue, the availability of judicial review is
•The positive value of the balancing test
• Objective and transparent
• A reflection of change
•Critics and Suspicion of the balancing test
1. The suspicion of the balancing test.
2. The uncertainty of the application of it.
3. Possible challenge poses on the nature of the Constitution.
Comparative Cases
Wilkinson v. Austin, 545 U.S.209
Where a new prison policy provided notice to an inmate of the basis for the
inmate’s consideration for Supermax placement and a fair opportunity for
rebuttal without witnesses, with multiple levels of review during which the
inmate could object and review 30days after placement, the policy satisfied
the Fourteenth Amendment Due Process Clause.
Hamdi v. Rumsfeld, 542 U.S.507
Although the Government was authorized to detain a citizen-detainee who
was allegedly an enemy combatant, he was entitled to a meaningful
opportunity to contest the factual basis for that detention before a neutral
decision maker.
City of Los Angeles v. David 538 U.S. 715
A 30—day delay in holding a towing fee payment-recovery hearing did
not violate due process because it was unlikely to spawn significant
factual errors, and it reflected no more than a routine delay
substantially required by administrative needs.
Comparative Cases Cont.
Am.Mfrs.Mut.Ins.Co v. Sullivan, 526 U.S.40,60
Workers’ compensation procedure allowing insures to withhold payment of
medical expenses pending review to determine if they were reasonable and
necessary did not violate Fourteenth Amendment because insurers were not state
Medina v. California, 505 U.S. 437, 443
The Due Process Clause required only the most basic procedural safeguards, and
the State’s procedural was constitutionally adequate to prevent an incompetent
defendant from standing trial.
Santo sky v. Kramer, 455 U.S. 745,767
A statute’s preponderance of evidence standard for terminating petitioners’
parental rights was found to be unconstitutional, and a clear and convincing
standard was necessary to protect petitioners’ due process rights.
Corey v. Dep’t of Land Conservation & Dev., 212 Ore. App. 536
Oregon is free, by statute, to require more than the minimum procedural
safeguards that a government agency must provide.
• Happy Turkey Day!
• That’s all folks!