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Analytical Essay on Due Process: Case Studies

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Question I

I. Introduction

Entitlements are central concepts throughout jurisprudence in the United States. They are the basic legal form utilized in the range areas of law such as contracts and torts. They are created by human actors who make moral decisions about who is deserving or undeserving within a chosen economic structure.

In 1935 the rise of social welfare entitlements began under the Social Security Act. The Social Security Act enacted OASDI, a retirement income supplement, Unemployment Insurance, a partial wage-replacement, and ADC, a cash assistance program for children living with their mothers. During this era a two-track welfare system emerged where a perception unfolded of those were deserving and those who were undeserving. The deserving poor were those who paid into the system and were seeking OASDI or unemployment insurance. Conversely, the undeserving were those who were seeking ADC due to necessity. Initially, ADC was supposed to be a temporary program that covered white widows [for example the widows of West Virginia coal miners], and at the time of its implementation the concept of the ‘good women’ who abides by the domestic code was enmeshed into the fabric of the act resulting in discrimination against single mothers, immigrant women, and African Americans automatically labeling them ‘bad mothers’ because there was large state discretion with ADC.

In the 1960s, ADC was renamed to Aid to Families with Dependent Child [AFDC] expanding its aid from children to families [mothers] with children. Rhetoric surrounding this change stemmed from the belief that poverty stemmed from an individual’s failures and lack of initiative as the rolls of AFDC recipients grew, the images of immoral sexual deviant inextricably became intertwined in the narrative about welfare recipients. During this era, welfare entitlements became grounded in the narrative of morality. In King v. Smith, Alabama residents were denied AFDC benefits because of the substitute father regulation which sought to narrow who was eligible for assistance. In King, the court determined that the state has the power to change financial eligibility, but not categorical. This holding created a statutory categorical entitlement to benefits that states cannot violate for all eligible individuals. Although King establishes a categorical entitlement, the court determined that the state can set the standard of need and level or benefits to be anything. In Dandrige, the court determined that states have the prerogative to compute the level of benefits. At the time Maryland capped their maximum grant on benefit levels to $250 and families with more than six children did not receive additional money for their seventh, eighth, or ninth child. Dandrige exemplifies how states tied moral issues such as family planning and illegitimacy to financial eligibility circumventing categorical eligibility to discriminate against those who were ‘entitled’. Similar to Dandrige, the court in Jefferson held the Texas cap on the total amount that can be spent for all types of welfare assistance grant was lawful, and that states can allocate funds however they see permissible as long as they are not redefining categorical eligibility and discriminating based on race. Jefferson exhibits how social welfare benefits are enmeshed with morality and race; by limiting benefits based on race the Texas cap program was giving into the stereotype of the “welfare queen,” a single, minority mother who lived on welfare her entire life and continued to produce children to increase her benefits. Dublino further unravels the entitlement of categorical eligibility established in King through the determination that states cannot define categorical eligibility, but they can add to it by imposing additional conditions of eligibility pursuant to state policies such as work requirements. Although individuals were entitled to benefits if they were deemed categorically eligible, states continuously sidestepped this to impose moral control over the lives of welfare recipients.

With the enactment of 1115/1315 waivers and OBRA in 1981 a shift in welfare entitlements emerged where welfare as a right, or entitlement, triggered procedural due process. In 1960, Flemming v. Nestor, the court rejected the argument that benefits are an accrued property right under the 5th Amendment that cannot be taken away. We begin to see a shift in social welfare entitlements when the Goldberg court ruled that AFDC recipients were entitled to a fair hearing before their benefits could be terminated, and the opportunity to be heard must be tailored to the capacities and circumstances of those who are heard. Under Goldberg to constitute a legal entitlement an individual must have a legitimate expectation to receive the benefit, which must be based upon reasonable and objective grounds. Even though, entitlement was reformulated from an emphasis on morality and the individual to procedural due process, the personal blame enmeshed in entitlements did not disappear.

The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996 changed welfare from a federal entitlement program to a state-run assistance program. The states were awarded control and design over welfare through a block grant. Congress stated that under 42 U.S.C 601(b) PRWORA there would no longer be any individual entitlement to welfare benefits. In 1996 AFDC was replaced by the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act’s (PRWORA) Temporary assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Program. The focus of PRWORA and TANF was to reduce those who receive welfare by instituting work requirements, ending welfare as an entitlement program, the establishment of mandatory time limits, and the encouragement of two-parent households. Under § 601(b) of PRWORA the act states that the statute ‘shall not be interpreted to entitle any individual or family to assistance under any State program funded under this part.” Although clear on its face, plain meaning of 42 U.S.C § 601(b) of PRWORA is ambiguous and its meaning was subject to multiple interpretations.

II. Courts Interpretation Post-PRWORA

The enactment of PRWORA caused doubt on the procedural due process rights that had been afforded to welfare recipients since Goldberg. The statute declared an end to any statutory entitlement to federal assistance. This resulted in the debate over whether welfare benefits still qualified as property interests subject to due process protection. Furthermore, PRWORA provided flexibility to states, and despite the federal statute’s ‘no entitlement’ prohibition, ambiguity exists as to whether a statutory entitlement to benefits exists.

A. Shvartsman v. Apfel, 138 F.3d 1196 (7th Cir. 1998).

Several years after the enactment of PWORA, in Shvartsman v. Apfel, plaintiffs challenged §402(a)(1) in the 7th Circuit which under PRWORA added a citizenship requirement to the food stamp program. In order to still be eligible for food stamps, legal immigrants had to become citizens within the recertification period under PRWORA (April 1, 1997 – April 22, 1997). The court rejected the plaintiff’s argument and held that food stamp recipients did not have a property interest in a recertification process allowing them to continue receiving food stamps, and without a property interest they plaintiffs did not have a due process violation.

The court differentiated Shvartsman from Youakim by stating that although the plaintiffs in both cases might be able to prove continuing eligibility given the opportunity for individualized determination, the plaintiffs in Youakim had asserted an undisputed property interest in the continued foster care benefits. Conversely, in Shvartsman the plaintiffs could not do so because the Food Stamp Program established a time-limit and not ongoing periods of eligibility, and the plaintiffs were applicants at the time, not recipients. Also, the court differentiated Logan from Shvartsman by determining that the plaintiffs in Logan did have a property interest. The court’s ruling in Shvartsman is the catalyst that begins to make welfare entitlements difficult to attain, because they court determined a property interest must be found.

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The court’s ruling in Shvartsman resembles the courts reason in the pre-PRWORA cases Flemming v. Nestor and King v. Smith. In both cases the court determined that welfare is not a vested property right (Flemming v. Nestor) nor a Constitutional property right (King v. Smith). Similarly, in Shvartsman, although it was determined that the plaintiffs were applicants, not recipients, the court fell in line with the arguments of Flemming and King determining that having no property interest meant that the plaintiffs had no procedural due process claim.

Conversely, Shvartsman is inconsistent with the pre-PRWORA case of Goldberg. In Goldberg the court determined that that welfare benefits are statutory entitlements, rather than privileges, and the Court weighed welfare recipients’ need for procedural due process against the competing considerations of the possible harm they might suffer from discontinuation and the government’s interest in summary adjudication. Also, the court in Goldberg determined that state interests in conserving administrative costs are not sufficient to override public aid recipients’ interest in procedural due process. The shift from Goldberg, where plaintiffs had a due process claim because welfare benefits were statutory entitlements to Shavartsman, where plaintiffs have no due process claim or property right stems from the enactment of PRWORA.

B. Weston v. Cassata, 37 P.3d 469 (Colo. App. 2001), cert. denied, 536 U.S. 923 (2002)

In Colorado, post-PRWORA enactment, plaintiffs challenged the validity of the sanction notices alleging that they were deficient and violated due process rights. The court found the notices to violate due process because they contained information too minimal to enable the recipient to determine whether to request a hearing. The Colorado Court of Appeals held that the ‘no entitlement’ language in the PRWORA, 42 U.S.C.S. § 601 did not destroy all forms of property rights in welfare benefits. According to the court, plaintiffs had a right to receive cash assistance benefits if such benefits were available and, if plaintiffs were eligible. Therefore, plaintiffs had a right to procedural due process. The Colorado Court of Appeals reverts back to the idea that plaintiffs have a due process right to their benefits.

Although Weston occurred after the enactment of PRWORA, the holding of the court resembled that of pre-PRWORA cases. The court is Weston looks to cite to the Goldberg holding in determining the extent of due process safeguards for persons possessing property interests in disputes involving public benefits. Goldberg provided support for extending due process protections through the courts ruling that ruling that welfare was a protected property interest, and that recipients are entitled to a hearing before, not after, their benefits are terminated. This is demonstrated in Weston when the court establishes that the plaintiffs that the notices were deficient, they remain consistent with Goldberg to establish that an entitlement to welfare benefits does exist.

Post Goldberg, the court in Mathews v. Eldridge adopted a general approach for determining what process is due when the government seeks to deprive an individual of a constitutionally protected interest. According to the Mathews approach identification of due process generally requires consideration of three distinct factors; (1) the private interest that will be affected by the official action; (2) the risk of an erroneous deprivation of such interest through the procedures used, and the probable value, of additional procedural safeguards; and (3) the Government’s interest, including the function involved and the financial and administrative burdens that the additional or procedural requirement would entail. Mathews set out the minimum procedural protections that should be afforded to welfare recipients by the state when depriving recipients of benefits. In Weston, the court grapples with the enactment of PRWORA and the ambiguity of the no entitlement provision and whether the right to procedural due process exists. Turning away from the minimum procedural protections set forth in Mathews, the court looked to Goldberg in order to determine that welfare benefits were a protected property interest under 601(b) of PRWORA.

C. State of West Virginia ex rel. K.M v. West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, 575 S.E.2d 393 (W. Va. 2002)

In State of West Virginia ex rel. K.M v. West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources families receiving TANF checks were limited to sixty months which could be extended to a maximum of six months. The court determined that there was no Constitutional right to receive welfare, and that TANF recipients did not have a property interest. Although the court determined while the no entitlement provision means that there is no right to cash assistance, once the state has established a scheme for making such payments, the State’s scheme must provide the program participants with adequate due process protections. Also, court found that, Congress and the Legislature intended a clear break with the past practice of providing cash assistance of unlimited duration to the poor, and that the Goldberg primary authority on this issue was ill-suited, because it was written before the 1996 Act and concerned rights under the old benefit scheme.

The court in State of West Virginia ex rel. K.M v. West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources rejects Goldberg’s rhetoric that welfare was a protected property interest, but still incorporate Goldberg into their holding. The West Virginia court determined that the state did not have to provide for an extension possibility, but they did provide one whereby recipient could get benefits beyond 60 months, and once they have chosen to set up a system beyond the sixty months it established a property right which the state cannot deprive them of without due process. Furthermore, recipients who apply for the extension do have a property right triggering procedural due process. Again, although K.M v. West Virginia occurs in the post-PRWORA era, the entitlement of procedural due process in social welfare benefits remains consistent. This relates back to the ambiguity of § 601 (b), and how its meaning is subject to multiple interpretations.

The 1996 enactment the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act resulted in a fundamental change to the administration and substance of public benefits. PRWORA also called into question the applicability of the procedural due process doctrine. Under PRWORA, states have significantly more authority and have the ability to determine who is entitled to welfare assistance. The delegation of powers coupled with § 601 (b)’s statutory ‘no entitlement’ disclaimer leaves welfare recipients more vulnerable than ever.

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Analytical Essay on Due Process: Case Studies. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 27, 2022, from
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