In an action potentially affecting many elderly Amercians, the Supreme Court agreed yesterday to decide sub-standard nursing homes can contest government decisions that could force them out.

The case comes from Philadelphia, where Town Court Nursing Center Inc. was certified in 1967 as an eligible provider of skilled nursing-home services under the Social Security Act.

Starting in 1974, federal and pennsylvania state surveys found continuing, substantial deficiencies at Town Court. Finally, in June 1977, the facility was decertified as a provider of Medicaid and Medicare services.

The decertification threatened a shutdown of Town Center because it no longer would be reimbursed for caring for 180 residents-of a total of 198-who qualified for Medicaid.

Six residents and Town Court obtained a court order keeping the facility open. Last Sept. 29, a divided 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the due process of law guaranteed by the Constitution entitled the residents to a hearing, because decertification was tantamount to an order to transfer a patient for his welfare.

The dissenting judge wrote that some elderly or chronically ill residents "would not be in physical or medical condition to participate even minimally in a decertification hearing."

The court took other actions.


Without comment, the court declined to disturb a Nuclear Regulator Commission refusal to shut down all of the nation's nuclear power facilities. Such "emergency" action had been requested well before last month's Three Mile Island accident in Pennsylvania by Jeannine Honicker of Nashville, Tenn.


The court rejected petitions by former House members Bertram L. Podell (D-N.Y.) and Frank J. Brasco (D-N.Y.) for review of their disbarments by the state of New York, which were made automatic by their convictions for felonies.

Podell pleaded guilty to conflict-of-interest charges arising from his receipt of a legal fee for advocating an airline's interests before federal agencies.

Brasco was convicted of having conspired to obtain truck leases fraudulently from the Postal Service.


The court agreed to decide whether the constitutional guarantee that an accused has the right to "be confronted with the witness against him" applied to Herschel Roberts of Lake County, Ohio. At a preliminary hearing, a defense witness, Anita Isaacs, gave incriminating testimony-but she was unavailable for cross-examination at the trial on forgery and other charges.


In a decision last month involving California and Nevada, the court held that the Constitution does not immunize a state from being sued in the courts of another state.

Citing the possibility of "boundless litigation," 42 states asked the court to rehear the case. The court almost never grants petitions for rehearing-and it didn't grant this one.