Opportunity for Meaningful Hearing
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 offence 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.
With respect to action taken by administrative agencies, the Court has held that the demands of due process do not require a hearing at the initial stage, or at any particular point in the proceeding, so long as a hearing is held before the final order becomes effective.1 In Bowles v. Willingham,2 the Court sustained orders fixing maximum rents issued without a hearing at any stage, saying “where Congress has provided for judicial review after the regulations or orders have been made effective it has done all that due process under the war emergency requires.” But where, after consideration of charges brought against an employer by a complaining union, the National Labor Relations Board undertook to void an agreement between an employer and another independent union, the latter was entitled to notice and an opportunity to participate in the proceedings.3 Although a taxpayer must be afforded a fair opportunity for a hearing in connection with the collection of taxes,4 collection by distraint of personal property is lawful if the taxpayer is allowed a hearing thereafter.5
When the Constitution requires a hearing, it requires a fair one, held before a tribunal that meets currently prevailing standards of impartiality.6 A party must be given an opportunity not only to present evidence, but also to know the claims of the opposing party and to meet them. Those who are brought into contest with the government in a quasi-judicial proceeding aimed at control of their activities are entitled to be fairly advised of what the government proposes and to be heard upon the proposal before the final command is issued.7 But a variance between the charges and findings will not invalidate administrative proceedings where the record shows that at no time during the hearing was there any misunderstanding as to the basis of the complaint.8 The mere admission of evidence that would be inadmissible in judicial proceedings does not vitiate the order of an administrative agency.9 A provision that such a body shall not be controlled by rules of evidence does not, however, justify orders without a foundation in evidence having rational probative force. Hearsay may be received in an administrative hearing and may constitute by itself substantial evidence in support of an agency determination, provided that there are present factors which assure the underlying reliability and probative value of the evidence and, at least in the case at hand, where the claimant before the agency had the opportunity to subpoena the witnesses and cross-examine them with regard to the evidence.10 Although the Court has recognized that in some circumstances a “fair hearing” implies a right to oral argument,11 it has refused to lay down a general rule that would cover all cases.12
In the light of the historically unquestioned power of a commanding officer summarily to exclude civilians from the area of his command, and applicable Navy regulations that confirm this authority, together with a stipulation in the contract between a restaurant concessionaire and the Naval Gun Factory forbidding employment on the premises of any person not meeting security requirements, due process was not denied by the summary exclusion on security grounds of the concessionaire’s cook, without hearing or advice as to the basis for the exclusion. The Fifth Amendment does not require a trial-type hearing in every conceivable case of governmental impairment of private interest.13 Because the Civil Rights Commission acts solely as an investigative and fact-finding agency and makes no adjudications, the Court, in Hannah v. Larche,14 upheld supplementary rules of procedure adopted by the Commission, independently of statutory authorization, under which state electoral officials and others accused of discrimination and summoned to appear at its hearings, are not apprised of the identity of their accusers, and witnesses, including the former, are not accorded a right to confront and cross-examine witnesses or accusers testifying at such hearings. Such procedural rights, the Court maintained, have not been granted by grand juries, congressional committees, or administrative agencies conducting purely fact-finding investigations in no way determining private rights.
“[S]ome form of hearing is required before an individual is finally deprived of a property [or liberty] interest.” 15 This right is a “basic aspect of the duty of government to follow a fair process of decision making when it acts to deprive a person of his possessions. The purpose of this requirement is not only to ensure abstract fair play to the individual. Its purpose, more particularly, is to protect his use and possession of property from arbitrary encroachment . . . .” 16 Thus, the notice of hearing and the opportunity to be heard “must be granted at a meaningful time and in a meaningful manner.” 17
It is a violation of due process for a state to enforce a judgment against a party to a proceeding without having given him an opportunity to be heard sometime before final judgment is entered.18 With regard to the presentation of every available defense, however, the requirements of due process do not necessarily entail affording an opportunity to do so before entry of judgment. The person may be remitted to other actions initiated by him19 or an appeal may suffice. Accordingly, a surety company, objecting to the entry of a judgment against it on a supersedeas bond, without notice and an opportunity to be heard on the issue of liability, was not denied due process where the state practice provided the opportunity for such a hearing by an appeal from the judgment so entered. Nor could the company found its claim of denial of due process upon the fact that it lost this opportunity for a hearing by inadvertently pursuing the wrong procedure in the state courts.20 On the other hand, where a state appellate court reversed a trial court and entered a final judgment for the defendant, a plaintiff who had never had an opportunity to introduce evidence in rebuttal to certain testimony which the trial court deemed immaterial but which the appellate court considered material was held to have been deprived of his rights without due process of law.21
- Opp Cotton Mills v. Administrator, 312 U.S. 126, 152, 153 (1941).
- 321 U.S. 503, 521 (1944).
- Consolidated Edison Co. v. NLRB, 305 U.S. 197 (1938).
- Central of Georgia Ry. v. Wright, 207 U.S. 127 (1907); Lipke v. Lederer, 259 U.S. 557 (1922).
- Phillips v. Commissioner, 283 U.S. 589 (1931). Cf. Springer v. United States, 102 U.S. 586, 593 (1881); Passavant v. United States, 148 U.S. 214 (1893). The collection of taxes is, however, very nearly a wholly unique area. See Perez v. Ledesma, 401 U.S. 82, 127 n.17 (1971) (Justice Brennan concurring in part and dissenting in part). On the limitations on private prejudgment collection, see Sniadach v. Family Finance Corp., 395 U.S. 337 (1969).
- Wong Yang Sung v. McGrath, 339 U.S. 33, 50 (1950). But see Arnett v. Kennedy, 416 U.S. 134, 170 n.5 (Justice Powell), 196–99 (Justice White) (1974) (hearing before probably partial officer at pretermination stage).
- Margan v. United States, 304 U.S. 1, 18–19 (1938). The Court has experienced some difficulty with application of this principle to administrative hearings and subsequent review in selective service cases. Compare Gonzales v. United States, 348 U.S. 407 (1955) (conscientious objector contesting his classification before appeals board must be furnished copy of recommendation submitted by Department of Justice; only by being appraised of the arguments and conclusions upon which recommendations were based would he be enabled to present his case effectively), with United States v. Nugent, 346 U.S. 1 (1953) (in auxiliary hearing that culminated in a Justice Department report and recommendation, it is sufficient that registrant be provided with resume of adverse evidence in FBI report because the “imperative needs of mobilization and national vigilance” mandate a minimum of “litigious interruption” ), and Gonzales v. United States, 364 U.S. 59 (1960) (five-to-four decision finding no due process violation when petitioner (1) at departmental proceedings was not permitted to rebut statements attributed to him by his local board, because the statements were in his file and he had opportunity to rebut both before hearing officer and appeal board, nor (2) at trial was denied access to hearing officer’s notes and report, because he failed to show any need and did have Department recommendations).
- NLRB v. Mackay Radio & Tel. Co., 304 U.S. 333, 349–50 (1938).
- Western Chem. Co. v. United States, 271 U.S. 268 (1926). See also United States v. Abilene & So. Ry., 265 U.S. 274, 288 (1924).
- Richardson v. Perales, 402 U.S. 389 (1971).
- Londoner v. Denver, 210 U.S. 373 (1908).
- FCC v. WJR, 337 U.S. 265, 274–77 (1949). See also Inland Empire Council v. Millis, 325 U.S. 697, 710 (1945). See Administrative Procedure Act, 60 Stat. 237 (1946), 5 U.S.C §§ 1001-1011. Cf. Link v. Wabash R.R., 370 U.S. 626, 637, 646 (1962), in which the majority rejected Justice Black’s dissenting thesis that the dismissal with prejudice of a damage suit without notice to the client and grounded upon the dilatory tactics of his attorney, and the latter’s failure to appear at a pre-trial conference, amounted to a taking of property without due process of law.
- Cafeteria & Restaurant Workers v. McElroy, 367 U.S. 886 (1961). Four dissenters, Justices Brennan, Black, Douglas, and Chief Justice Warren, emphasized the inconsistency between the Court’s acknowledgment that the cook had a right not to have her entry badge taken away for arbitrary reasons, and its rejection of her right to be told in detail the reasons for such action. The case has subsequently been cited as involving an “extraordinary situation.” Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371, 379 (1971); Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 264 n.10 (1970).
Manifesting a disposition to adjudicate on non-constitutional grounds dismissals of employees under the Federal Loyalty Program, the Court, in Peters v. Hobby, 349 U.S. 331 (1955), invalidated, as in excess of its delegated authority, a finding of reasonable doubt as to the loyalty of the petitioner by a Loyalty Review Board which, on its own initiative, reopened his case after he had twice been cleared by his Agency Loyalty Board, and arrived at its conclusion on the basis of adverse information not offered under oath and supplied by informants, not all of whom were known to the Review Board and none of whom was disclosed to petitioner for cross-examination by him. The Board was found not to possess any power to review on its own initiative. Concurring, Justices Douglas and Black condemned as irreconcilable with due process and fair play the use of faceless informers whom the petitioner is unable to confront and cross-examine.
In Cole v. Young, 351 U.S. 536 (1956), also decided on the basis of statutory interpretation, there is an intimation that grave due process issues would be raised by the application to federal employees, not occupying sensitive positions, of a measure which authorized, in the interest of national security, summary suspensions and unreviewable dismissals of allegedly disloyal employees by agency heads. In Service v. Dulles, 354 U.S. 363 (1957), and Vitarelli v. Seaton, 359 U.S. 535 (1959), the Court nullified dismissals for security reasons by invoking an established rule of administrative law to the effect that an administrator must comply with procedures outlined in applicable agency regulations, notwithstanding that such regulations conform to more rigorous substantive and procedural standards than are required by Congress or that the agency action is discretionary in nature. In both of the last cited decisions, dismissals of employees as security risks were set aside by reason of the failure of the employing agency to conform the dismissal to its established security regulations. See Accardi v. Shaughnessy, 347 U.S. 260 (1954).
Again avoiding constitutional issues, the Court, in Greene v. McElroy, 360 U.S. 474 (1959), invalidated the security clearance procedure required of defense contractors by the Defense Department as being unauthorized either by law or presidential order. However, the Court suggested that it would condemn, on grounds of denial of due process, any enactment or Executive Order which sanctioned a comparable department security clearance program, under which a defense contractor’s employee could have his security clearance revoked without a hearing at which he had the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses. Justices Frankfurter, Harlan, and Whittaker concurred without passing on the validity of such procedure, if authorized. Justice Clark dissented. See also the dissenting opinions of Justices Douglas and Black in Beard v. Stahr, 370 U.S. 41, 43 (1962), and in Williams v. Zuckert, 371 U.S. 531, 533 (1963).
- 363 U.S. 420, 493, 499 (1960). Justices Douglas and Black dissented on the ground that when the Commission summons a person accused of violating a federal election law with a view to ascertaining whether the accusation may be sustained, it acts in lieu of a grand jury or a committing magistrate, and therefore should be obligated to afford witnesses the procedural protection herein denied. Congress subsequently amended the law to require that any person who is defamed, degraded, or incriminated by evidence or testimony presented to the Commission be afforded the opportunity to appear and be heard in executive session, with a reasonable number of additional witnesses requested by him, before the Commission can make public such evidence or testimony. Further, any such person, before the evidence or testimony is released, must be afforded an opportunity to appear publicly to state his side and to file verified statements with the Commission which it must release with any report or other document containing defaming, degrading, or incriminating evidence or testimony. Pub. L. 91-521, § 4, 84 Stat. 1357 (1970), 42 U.S.C. § 1975a(e). Cf. Jenkins v. McKeithen, 395 U.S. 411 (1969).
- Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 333 (1976). “Parties whose rights are to be affected are entitled to be heard.” Baldwin v. Hale, 68 U.S. (1 Wall.) 223, 233 (1863).
- Fuentes v. Shevin, 407 U.S. 67, 80–81 (1972). See Joint Anti-Fascist Refugee Committee v. McGrath, 341 U.S. 123, 170–71 (1951) (Justice Frankfurter concurring).
- Armstrong v. Manzo, 380 U.S. 545, 552 (1965).
- Postal Telegraph Cable Co. v. Newport, 247 U.S. 464, 476 (1918); Baker v. Baker, Eccles & Co., 242 U.S. 394, 403 (1917); Louisville & Nashville R.R. v. Schmidt, 177 U.S. 230, 236 (1900).
- Lindsey v. Normet, 405 U.S. 56, 65–69 (1972). However, if one would suffer too severe an injury between the doing and the undoing, he may avoid the alternative means. Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 647 (1972).
- American Surety Co. v. Baldwin, 287 U.S. 156 (1932). Cf. Logan v. Zimmerman Brush Co., 455 U.S. 422, 429–30, 432–33 (1982).
- Saunders v. Shaw, 244 U.S. 317 (1917).
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