430 U.S. 99 (1977), 75-1443, Califano v. Sanders

Docket Nº:No. 75-1443
Citation:430 U.S. 99, 97 S.Ct. 980, 51 L.Ed.2d 192
Party Name:Califano v. Sanders
Case Date:February 23, 1977
Court:United States Supreme Court

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430 U.S. 99 (1977)

97 S.Ct. 980, 51 L.Ed.2d 192




No. 75-1443

United States Supreme Court

Feb. 23, 1977

Argued January 11-12, 1977




1. Section 10 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), providing generally for judicial review of actions of federal administrative agencies by persons aggrieved by such actions, does not afford an implied grant to district courts of subject matter jurisdiction to review a decision of the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare not to reopen a previously adjudicated claim for social security benefits. An interpretation in favor of jurisdiction is suggested by neither the text nor history of the APA, and would effectively override Congress' recent decision to expand jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331(a) by eliminating the amount in controversy requirement as a prerequisite to maintaining federal question actions against federal agencies or officers or employees thereof, while retaining § 205(h) of the Social Security Act as a limitation of such jurisdiction. Pp. 104-107.

2. Nor does § 205(g) of the Social Security Act, which provides that any individual, after any "final decision of the Secretary made after a hearing" to which he was a party, irrespective of the amount in controversy, may obtain a review of such decision by civil action commenced within 60 days, authorize judicial review of the Secretary's decision, absent a constitutional challenge. A petition to reopen a prior final decision may be denied without a § 205(b) hearing, whereas judicial review under § 205(g) is limited to a final decision "made after a hearing"; moreover, to allow judicial review would frustrate the congressional purpose, evidenced in § 205(g), to impose a 60-day limitation upon review of the Secretary's final decision. Pp. 107-109.

522 F.2d 1167, reversed.

BRENNAN, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. STEWART, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which BURGER, C.J., joined, post, p. 109. STEVENS, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

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BRENNAN, J., lead opinion

[97 S.Ct. 982] MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

The questions for decision are (1) whether § 10 of the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. §§ 701-706,1 is an

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independent grant to district courts of subject matter jurisdiction to review a decision of the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare not to reopen a previously adjudicated claim for social security benefits and (2), if not, whether § 205(g) of the Social Security Act2 authorizes judicial review of the Secretary's decision.


Title II of the Social Security Act provides disability benefits for a claimant who demonstrates that he suffers a physical or mental disability within the meaning of the Act, and that the disability arose prior to the expiration of his insured status. 42 U.S.C. §§ 416(i), 423. The administrative process is begun when he files a claim with the Social Security Administration. 20 CFR §§ 404.905-404.907 (1976). If the claim is administratively denied, regulations permit administrative reconsideration within a six-month period. §§ 404.909-404.915. Should a request for reconsideration prove unsuccessful, the claimant may, within 60 days, ask for an evidentiary hearing before an administrative law judge, 42 U.S.C. § 405(b) (1970 ed., Supp. V), and a discretionary appeal from an adverse determination of the law judge lies to the Appeals Council. 20 CFR §§ 404.945-404.947

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(1976). Finally § 205(g) of the Act, 42 U.S.C. § 405(g), authorizes federal judicial review of "any final decision of the Secretary made after a hearing to which [the claimant] was a party. . . . "

The Act and regulations thus create an orderly administrative mechanism, with district court review of the final decision of the Secretary, to assist in the original processing of the more than 7,600,000 claims filed annually with the Administration. See Social Security Administration, The Year in Review -- The Administration of Social Security Programs 1975, p. 54 (1976). By regulation, however, the administrative scheme provides for additional consideration of [97 S.Ct. 983] the claim. This is in the form of regulations for reopening of the agency determination within specified time limits after the date of initial determination: 12 months as a matter of right and four years "upon a finding of good cause," which exists if new material evidence is provided or specific errors are discovered. 20 CFR §§ 404.957(a), (b), 404.958 (1976). Moreover, the regulations permit reopening "[a]t any time" for the purpose of correcting clerical errors or errors on the face of relevant evidence. § 404.957(c)(8).

On January 30, 1964, respondent filed his initial claim with the agency for disability payments and disability insurance benefits, alleging inability to work because of epilepsy and blackout spells. The claim proceeded through the several steps of the administrative procedures. An Administrative Law Judge found that respondent was ineligible for benefits on the ground that he had not demonstrated a relevant disability of sufficient severity. The Appeals Council, in June, 1966, sustained this decision, and respondent did not pursue judicial review of the Secretary's final decision under § 205(g).

Almost seven years later, on March 5, 1973, respondent filed a second claim alleging the same bases for eligibility. His claim was again processed through administrative channels under the Secretary's regulations. The Administrative Law

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Judge viewed the new application as barred by res judicata, see 20 CFR § 404.937 (1976), but also treated the application as requiring the determination "whether the claimant is entitled to have his prior application reopened. . . ." App. 33-34. Concluding that respondent's evidence was "merely rep[e]titio[u]s and cumulative," id. at 35, and finding no errors on the face of the evidence, ibid., the Administrative Law Judge denied reopening and dismissed the claim.

Respondent thereupon filed this action in the District Court for the Northern District of Indiana, challenging the Secretary's decision not to reopen, and resting jurisdiction on § 205(g), 42 U.S.C. § 405(g). The District Court dismissed the complaint on the ground stated in its unpublished memorandum that "this court is without jurisdiction to consider the subject matter of this suit." Pet. for Cert. 13a-14a. The Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed. Sanders v. Weinberger, 522 F.2d 1167 (1975). The Court of Appeals agreed that jurisdiction to review a refusal to reopen a claim proceeding on the ground of abuse of discretion was not authorized by the Social Security Act. Id. at 1169. The court held, however, that § 205(h)3 did not limit judicial review to those methods "expressly authorize[d]" by the Social Security Act itself. Therefore, the Court of Appeals concluded

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that § 10 other Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which "contains an independent grant...

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