Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank
SCOTUS - 1950 (339 U.S. 306)
- D was the custodian/trustee of a trust, comprised of interests held by 113 donors (Ps).
- D wanted to "settle the first account as common trustee" in front of NY Surrogate's Court (basically judicial approval of what bank has done in the past year; bad if bank did something bad in the past that shows up later, can't sue bank).
- Court only required that notice be published in a local newspaper for 4 weeks.
- Ps contended that notice was insufficient under DP of 14th Amendment since the addresses of a good number of the trustees was known.
- Lower court found for D.
- NY Court of Appeals affirmed, found for D.
- SCOTUS reversed, found for Ps, notice insufficient.
- Is notice given by publication sufficient under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment when the parties' addresses were known?
- Notice given by publication is insufficient under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment when the parties' addresses are known.
- To satisfy due process, the form of notice used must be reasonable in light of the practicalities and peculiarities of the specific case.
- Ps had the right to receive adequate notice since the proceeding could have deprived them of property rights.
- The fundamental premise of due process is the right to be heard, which means nothing unless the parties are informed of the proceedings.
- "The notice must be of such a nature as reasonably to convey the required information, and it must afford a reasonable time for those interested to make their appearance. But if with due regard for the practicalities and peculiarities of the case these conditions are reasonably met, the constitutional requirements are satisfied."
- Publication in a newspaper is unlikely to reach even local residents, especially since their names are not listed.
- For those whose addresses were unknown, the notice printed in the publication was constitutional.
- For those whose addresses were known, there was no reason not to mail them notice about the proceeding.
- The notice to the known was inadequate, not because it failed to reach everyone, but because under the circumstances it was not reasonably calculated to reach those who could easily be informed by other means at hand.
- Due process requires "notice reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances, to apprise interest parties of the pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to present their objections".
- Notice by publication doesn't work, but it can be sufficient if there is no other way or if property was forfeited.
- Notice in a case like this needs to be practical, not perfect.
- If a good many individuals are notified, odds are good that any problems will be uncovered.
- If some interests are conjectural, there is no need to do great searching.