No. 75-1443

Argued: Decided: February 23, 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.

Maurice Rosenberg argued the cause for petitioner. With [430 U.S. 99, 100]   him on the briefs were Solicitor General Bork, Assistant Attorney General Lee, Deputy Solicitor General Jones, and Robert E. Kopp.

William A. Kowalski argued the cause and filed a brief for respondent. 

Footnote * ] Dennis M. Sweeney filed a brief for the Administrative Law Center, Legal Aid Bureau, Inc., as amicus curiae urging reversal.

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, is an [430 U.S. 99, 101]   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 Act 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 [430 U.S. 99, 102]   (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 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 [430 U.S. 99, 103]   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) did not limit judicial review to those methods “expressly authorize[d]” by the Social Security Act itself. Therefore, the Court of Appeals concluded [430 U.S. 99, 104]   that 10 of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), which “contains an independent grant of subject-matter jurisdiction, without regard to the amount in controversy,” afforded the District Court jurisdiction of respondent’s complaint. 522 F.2d, at 1169. We granted certiorari sub nom. Mathews v. Sanders, 426 U.S. 905 (1976). We reverse.



The Court of Appeals acknowledged that its construction of 10 of the APA as an independent grant of subject-matter jurisdiction is contrary to the conclusion reached by several other Courts of Appeals. 522 F.2d, at 1169. This conflict is understandable. None of the codified statutory sections that constitute 10 is phrased like the usual grant of jurisdiction to proceed in the federal courts. On the other hand, the statute undoubtedly evinces Congress’ intention and understanding that judicial review should be widely available to challenge the actions of federal administrative officials. Consequently, courts and commentators have sharply divided [430 U.S. 99, 105]   over whether the statute should be read to provide a distinct basis of jurisdiction for the review of agency actions. Three decisions of this Court arguably have assumed, with little discussion, that the APA is an independent grant of subject-matter jurisdiction. See Citizens to Preserve Overton Park v. Volpe, 401 U.S. 402, 410 (1971); Abbott Laboratories v. Gardner, 387 U.S. 136, 141 (1967); Rusk v. Cort, 369 U.S. 367, 372 (1962). However, an Act of Congress enacted since our grant of certiorari in this case now persuades us that the better view is that the APA is not to be interpreted as an implied grant of subject-matter jurisdiction to review agency actions.

On October 21, 1976, Congress enacted Pub. L. 94-574, 90 Stat. 2721, which amends 28 U.S.C. 1331 (a) to eliminate the requirement of a specified amount in controversy as a prerequisite to the maintenance of “any [ 1331] action brought against the United States, any agency thereof, or any officer or employee thereof in his official capacity.” The obvious effect of this modification, subject only to preclusion-of-review statutes created or retained by Congress, is to confer jurisdiction on federal courts to review agency action, regardless of whether the APA of its own force may serve as a jurisdictional predicate. We conclude that this amendment now largely undercuts the rationale for interpreting the APA as an independent jurisdictional provision.

As noted previously, the actual text of 10 of the APA nowhere contains an explicit grant of jurisdiction to challenge [430 U.S. 99, 106]   agency action in the federal courts. Furthermore, even the advocates of jurisdiction under the APA acknowledge that there is no basis for concluding that Congress, in enacting 10 of the APA, actually conceived of the Act in jurisdictional terms. See, e. g., Byse & Fiocca, supra, n. 5, at 328. Thus, the argument in favor of APA jurisdiction rests exclusively on the broad policy consideration that, given the shortcomings of federal mandamus jurisdiction, such a construction is warranted by the rational policy of affording federal judicial review of actions by federal officials acting pursuant to federal law, notwithstanding the absence of the requisite jurisdictional amount. See id., at 330-331; Jaffe, supra, n. 5, at 165. We do not find this argument to be compelling in light of Congress’ apparent intention by the 1976 amendment to restructure afresh the scope of federal-question jurisdiction.

In amending 1331, Congress obviously has expressly acted to fill the jurisdictional void created by the pre-existing amount-in-controversy requirement. This new jurisdictional grant was qualified, however, by the retention of 205 (h) as preclusive of actions such as this that arise under the Social Security Act. Read together, the expansion of 1331, coupled with the retention of 205 (h), apparently expresses Congress’ view of the desired contours of federal-question jurisdiction over agency action. A broad reading of the APA in this instance would serve no purpose other than to modify Congress’ new jurisdictional enactment by overriding its decision to limit 1331 through the preservation of 205 (h). Squarely faced with the question of APA jurisdiction for the [430 U.S. 99, 107]   first time, Congress’ explicit entry into the jurisdictional area counsels against our reading the APA as an implied jurisdictional grant designed solely to fill such an interstitial gap in 1331 jurisdiction. This is particularly so since neither the text nor the history of the APA speaks in favor of such a reading, and the 1976 Congress, in redefining 1331, appears not to have envisioned the APA as playing any such stopgap role. 

We thus conclude that the APA does not afford an implied grant of subject-matter jurisdiction permitting federal judicial review of agency action.


Respondent contends that notwithstanding the above, the Social Security Act itself, specifically 205 (g), should be construed to authorize judicial review of a final decision of the Secretary not to reopen a claim of benefits. All Courts of Appeals that have considered this contention have rejected it. We also agree that 205 (g) cannot be read to authorize [430 U.S. 99, 108]   judicial review of alleged abuses of agency discretion in refusing to reopen claims for social security benefits.

The pertinent part of 205 (g) provides:

    “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 a civil action commenced within sixty days . . . .” (Emphasis supplied.)

This provision clearly limits judicial review to a particular type of agency action, a “final decision of the Secretary made after a hearing.” But a petition to reopen a prior final decision may be denied without a hearing as provided in 205 (b), 42 U.S.C. 405 (b) (1970 ed., Supp. V); see Cappadora v. Celebrezze, 356 F.2d 1, 4 (CA2 1966); Ortego v. Weinberger, 516 F.2d 1005, 1007 (CA5 1975). Indeed, the opportunity to reopen final decisions and any hearing convened to determine the propriety of such action are afforded by the Secretary’s regulations and not by the Social Security Act. Moreover, an interpretation that would allow a claimant judicial review simply by filing – and being denied – a petition to reopen his claim would frustrate the congressional purpose, plainly evidenced in 205 (g), to impose a 60-day limitation upon judicial review of the Secretary’s final decision on the initial claim for benefits. 20 CFR 404.951 (1976). Congress’ determination so to limit judicial review to the original decision denying benefits is a policy choice obviously designed to forestall repetitive or belated litigation of stale eligibility claims. Our duty, of course, is to respect that choice.

Respondent argues, however, that Weinberger v. Salfi, 422 U.S. 749 (1975), and Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319 (1976), have rejected this interpretation of 205 (g). We do not agree. It is true that both cases authorized judicial [430 U.S. 99, 109]   review under 205 (g) of the Secretary’s decision to deny or discontinue social security benefits notwithstanding the absence of a prior 205 (b) hearing. In both instances, however, the claimants challenged the Secretary’s decisions on constitutional grounds. Constitutional questions obviously are unsuited to resolution in administrative hearing procedures and, therefore, access to the courts is essential to the decision of such questions. Furthermore, since federal-question jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. 1331 is precluded by 205 (h), Weinberger v. Salfi, supra, at 761, a decision denying 205 (g) jurisdiction in Salfi or Eldridge would effectively have closed the federal forum to the adjudication of colorable constitutional claims. Thus those cases merely adhered to the well-established principle that when constitutional questions are in issue, the availability of judicial review is presumed, and we will not read a statutory scheme to take the “extraordinary” step of foreclosing jurisdiction unless Congress’ intent to do so is manifested by “`clear and convincing'” evidence. 422 U.S., at 762 ; Johnson v. Robison, 415 U.S. 361, 366 -367 (1974).

This is not one of those rare instances where the Secretary’s denial of a petition to reopen is challenged on constitutional grounds. Respondent seeks only an additional opportunity to establish that he satisfies the Social Security Act’s eligibility standards for disability benefits. Therefore, 205 (g) does not afford subject-matter jurisdiction in this case.