MR. JUSTICE POWELL delivered the opinion of the Court.
This case comes to us on appeal from a three-judge District Court determination that the Connecticut "seated interview" procedures for assessing continuing
In Connecticut, unemployment compensation benefits are paid from a trust fund maintained by employer contributions. Appellant Fusari, State Commissioner of Labor and Administrator of the Unemployment Compensation Act, administers the fund. Under the Connecticut statute, a claimant first must file an initiating claim and establish his general entitlement to receive state unemployment compensation benefits. Conn. Gen. Stat. Rev. §§ 31-230 and 31-235 (1973). Thereafter, the claimant must report to the local unemployment compensation office biweekly and demonstrate continued eligibility for benefits for the preceding two-week period. The claimant must submit forms swearing to his availability for work and to his reasonable efforts to obtain employment during the period in question. He also must submit a form listing the persons to whom he has applied for employment during the preceding two weeks.
Upon receipt of the forms, the paying official may make routine inquiries. If no serious question of eligibility arises, immediate payment is made. If, however, the forms or responses to questions raise suspicion of possible disqualification, the claimant is directed to a
An examiner's favorable determination of eligibility results in immediate payment of benefits. If, however, the examiner concludes that the claimant is ineligible, no payment is made. Within a few days the claimant receives a written statement indicating the reasons for disqualification and notifying him of the right to appeal. Benefits for the period in question normally are withheld pending resolution of the administrative appeal.
This appeal arises from a class action challenging the legality of the procedures used for determining continued
The District Court's findings of fact provide some indication of the actual operation of the Connecticut system. The findings reveal that the reversal rate of appealed denials of benefits was significant, ranging from 19.4% to 26.1% during the periods surveyed.
The District Court expressed serious reservations whether the Connecticut system satisfied the "when due" requirement of federal law. It felt foreclosed from so ruling on this statutory issue, however, by this Court's summary affirmance in Torres v. New York State Dept. of Labor, 405 U.S. 949 (1972). The District Court concluded that Torres was distinguishable on the constitutional issue, and held that the Connecticut procedures violated due process "because (a) a property interest has been denied (b) at an inadequate hearing (c) that is not reviewable de novo until an unreasonable length of time." 364 F. Supp., at 937-938. After suggesting a number of alterations of the state system that might raise its operation to a constitutionally adequate level, the court enjoined appellant from denying unemployment benefits under then-existing procedures without first providing a constitutionally sufficient prior hearing. Id., at 938. At appellant's request, the District Court stayed its injunction pending resolution of an appeal to this
Following our notation of probable jurisdiction, the Connecticut Legislature enacted major revisions of the procedures by which unemployment compensation claims are determined. Conn. Pub. Act 74-339 (1974).
The amended statute provides for the creation of a staff of referees to review the examiners' decisions de novo. § 15. Referees are to be appointed by an Employment Security Board of Review. § 9,
The legislative history indicates that the Connecticut Legislature anticipated that these amendments would have a significant impact on the speed and fairness of the resolution of contested claims. Legislators repeatedly characterized the amendments as a "true reform" of important consequence. See Conn. S. Proc. 2578, 2624, 2629 (May 7, 1974). Particular emphasis was placed on the need to improve the State's treatment of administrative appeals. It was recognized that Connecticut's torpid system of administrative appeal was markedly inferior to those used in other States. Id., at 2578, 2621; Conn. H. Proc. 5133-5135, 5152 (May 2, 1974). Revision of the appellate system was designed to remedy that problem. In the words of one member of the House: "The bill . . . sets up a unique system which is designed to cut down that [appellate] backlog." Id., at 5152.
The amendments to the Connecticut statute, which became effective on July 1, 1974, Conn. Pub. Act 74-339, § 36 (1974), may alter significantly the character of the
This Court must review the District Court's judgment in light of presently existing Connecticut law, not the law in effect at the time that judgment was rendered.
Both the statutory and constitutional questions are significantly affected by the length of the period of deprivation of benefits.
Identification of the precise dictates of due process requires consideration of both the governmental function involved and the private interests affected by official action. Cafeteria Workers v. McElroy, 367 U.S. 886, 895 (1961); Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U. S., at 263-266. As the Court recognized in Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371, 378 (1971): "The formality and procedural requisites for [a due process] hearing can vary, depending upon the importance of the interests involved and the nature of the subsequent proceedings." In this context, the possible length of wrongful deprivation of unemployment benefits is an important factor in assessing the impact of official action on the private interests. Cf. Arnett v. Kennedy, 416 U.S. 134, 168-169 (1974) (opinion of POWELL, J.); id., at 190, 192 (WHITE, J., concurring in part and dissenting in part). Prompt and adequate administrative review provides an opportunity for consideration and correction of errors made in initial eligibility determinations. Thus, the rapidity of administrative review is a significant factor in assessing the sufficiency of the entire process. The record, of course, provides no indication of the promptness and adequacy of review under the new system. We are unable, therefore, to decide this appeal on its merits.
It is so ordered.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER, concurring.
I join the opinion of the Court; however, it may be useful to mention two points which bear further discussion. First, as the Court notes, ante, at 387 n. 12, all parties failed to inform us that after the District Court entered judgment the Connecticut Legislature significantly changed its unemployment compensation system. I agree with the Court that this failure is "difficult to understand." Ibid. It is disconcerting to this Court to learn of relevant and important developments in a case after the entire Court has come to the Bench to hear arguments.
Even at oral argument we were not informed of the changes in state law although both parties filed their briefs after the new statute was passed. The Connecticut Legislature appears to have changed the system at least in part to expedite administrative appeals and thereby treat claimants more fairly, see ante, at 380, 386, thus meeting in part, at least, the basis of the attack on the system. All parties had an obligation to inform the Court that the system which the District Court had enjoined had been changed; however, only a cryptic reference was made to the change of law. The appellees' brief is 122 pages long and notes the change once, at the end of a footnote. Brief for Appellees 65 n. 52. At that point appellees are contending that the long delay between the seated interview and administrative review of a decision to withhold benefits aggravates the defects which they contend exist in the seated interview itself. There appellees quote Boddie v. Connecticut, 401 U.S. 371,
This Court must rely on counsel to present issues fully and fairly, and counsel have a continuing duty to inform the Court of any development which may conceivably affect an outcome.
Second, although I agree wholeheartedly with the Court's reasoned discussion of the tension between the summary affirmance in Torres v. New York State Dept. of Labor, 405 U.S. 949 (1972), aff'g 333 F.Supp. 341 (SDNY 1971), and the Court's opinion in California Human Resources Dept. v. Java, 402 U.S. 121 (1971), ante, at 388-389, n. 15, we might well go beyond that and make explicit what is implicit in some prior holdings. E. g., Gibson v. Berryhill, 411 U.S. 564, 576 (1973); Edelman v. Jordan, 415 U.S. 651, 671 (1974). When we summarily affirm, without opinion, the judgment of a three-judge district court we affirm the judgment but not necessarily the reasoning by which it was reached.
Stephen P. Berzon, Stefan M. Rosenzweig, J. Albert Woll, and Bernard Kleiman filed a brief for Ellenmae Crow et al. as amici curiae.
In addition to imposing restrictions on the fiscal administration of state unemployment compensation funds, § 303 establishes specific procedural safeguards for benefit claimants. 42 U. S. C. §§ 503 (a) (1) and (a) (3). It provides:
"(a) The Secretary of Labor shall make no certification for payment to any State unless he finds that the law of such State, approved by the Secretary of Labor under the Federal Unemployment Tax Act, includes provision for—
"(1) Such methods of administration (including after January 1, 1940, methods relating to the establishment and maintenance of personnel standards on a merit basis, except that the Secretary of Labor shall exercise no authority with respect to the selection, tenure of office, and compensation of any individual employed in accordance with such methods) as are found by the Secretary of Labor to be reasonably calculated to insure full payment of unemployment compensation when due;
"(3) Opportunity for a fair hearing, before an impartial tribunal, for all individuals whose claims for unemployment compensation are denied." (Emphasis added.)
A more complete assessment of the operation of the Connecticut system might be obtained by attempting to determine the overall error rate for all denials of benefits. The District Court made no finding on this point.
Any statutory requirement that embodies notions of timeliness, accuracy, and administrative feasibility inevitably will generate fact-specific applications. In this instance, many of the factual distinctions that the District Court relied on to distinguish Torres on the constitutional issue apply equally to the "when due" question. For example, the delay in resolving administrative appeals is considerably greater in Connecticut than in the New York system, where administrative appeals were resolved in an average of 45 days. See Torres v. New York State Dept. of Labor, 321 F.Supp. 432, 439 (SDNY 1971). And, as the District Court observed, the Torres court apparently did not consider the probable accuracy of the challenged procedure in determining whether it adequately assured delivery of benefits "when due." See 364 F. Supp., at 936. We do not undertake to identify the combination of factors that justify the Torres decision. Having once decided the case summarily, we decline to do so again. We only indicate that the District Court should not have felt precluded from undertaking a more precise analysis of the statutory issue than it felt empowered to do in this case.