FLEMMING V. NESTOR, 363 U. S. 603 (1960)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Flemming v. Nestor, 363 U.S. 603 (1960)

Flemming v. Nestor

No. 54

Argued February 24, 1960

Decided June 20, 1960

363 U.S. 603


Section 202 (n) of the Social Security Act, as amended, provides for the termination of old-age benefits payable to an alien who, after the date of its enactment (September 1, 1954), is deported under § 241 (a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act on any one of certain grounds specified in § 202(n). Appellee, an alien who had become eligible for old-age benefits in 1955, was deported in 1956, pursuant to § 241(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, for having been a member of the Communist Party from 1933 to 1939. Since this was one of the grounds specified in § 202(n), his old-age benefits were terminated shortly thereafter. He commenced this action in a single-judge District Court, under § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, to secure judicial review of that administrative decision. The District Court held that § 202(n) deprived appellee of an accrued property right and, therefore, violated the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment.


1. Although this action drew into question the constitutionality of § 202(n), it did not involve an injunction or otherwise interdict the operation of the statutory scheme; 28 U.S.C. § 2282, forbidding the issuance of an injunction restraining the enforcement, operation or execution of an Act of Congress for repugnance to the Constitution, except by a three-judge District Court, was not applicable; and jurisdiction over the action was properly exercised by the single-judge District Court. Pp. 363 U. S. 606-608.

2. A person covered by the Social Security Act has not such a right in old-age benefit payments as would make every defeasance of "accrued" interests violative of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 363 U. S. 608-611.

(a) The noncontractual interest of an employee covered by the Act cannot be soundly analogized to that of the holder of an annuity, whose right to benefits are based on his contractual premium payments. Pp. 363 U. S. 608-610.

(b) To engraft upon the Social Security System a concept of "accrued property rights" would deprive it of the flexibility and

Page 363 U. S. 604

boldness in adjustment to ever-changing conditions which it demands and which Congress probably had in mind when it expressly reserved the right to alter, amend or repeal any provision of the Act. Pp. 363 U. S. 610-611.

3. Section 202(n) of the Act cannot be condemned as so lacking in rational justification as to offend due process. Pp. 363 U. S. 611-612.

4. Termination of appellee's benefits under § 202(n) does not amount to punishing him without a trial, in violation of Art. III, §2, Ch 3, of the Constitution or the Sixth Amendment; nor is § 202(n) a bill of attainder or ex post facto law, since its purpose is not punitive. Pp. 363 U. S. 612-621.

169 F. Supp. 922, reversed.

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