Prince’s Briefcase: Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co. (Glannon Civil Procedure)


Professor Joseph Glannon Civil Procedure: Service of Process–Constitutional Standard of Adequate Notice.

Here is a case from my Civil Procedure course which explains the constitutional standard of serving process (lawsuit papers) to an individual or multiple individuals. In this case publishing the names of out-of-state parties in a newspaper, to serve as adequate notice to be summoned in court, is not constitutional.

Case Name, Citation Number, Author
Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank and Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306, United States Supreme Court

prince's briefcase (princesdailyjournal)Procedural History
Mullane objected to the statutory provision for notice by publication, arguing that it was unconstitutional for lack of due process under the 14th Amendment. The surrogate court overruled Mullane’s objection and the ruling was affirmed on appeal to the NY Supreme Court Appellate Division and the New York Court of Appeals. The US Supreme court granted certiorari.

Facts
–Central Hanover Bank, was the plaintiff, & trustee of a common trust fund formed by pooling the assets of number of smaller trusts.
–Central Hanover Bank petitioned to the NY Surrogate’s court for a judicial settlement of the trust.
–The only notice provided to beneficiaries was via publication in a newspaper
–Mullane, who was the Defendant, was the appointed attorney and special guardian for a number of beneficiaries who either were unknown or did not appear.

Issue
Is notice given to out of state parties by publication in a newspaper, when the parties addresses were known constitutional in light of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment?

Holding
No because notice given to out-of-state parties by publication in a newspaper, when the parties’ addresses were known, is unconstitutional in light of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment.

Rule
Service by mail is sufficient under due process clause. But it all depends under the circumstances.

Reasoning
–Notice must be reasonably calculated to inform known parties affected by the proceedings. However, constructive notice by publication was acceptable with regard to missing or unknown parties or for those whose whereabouts could not be ascertained by due diligence or for whom future interest were too conjectural to be known with certainty.
–“reasonably calculated, under circumstances, to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to present their objections”

Disposition
Judgment Reversed

Notes
14th Amendment: No state shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Prince’s Takeaway
Summoning parties to court by means of publishing an ad in the newspaper violates the Due Process Clause–especially if the addresses are already made known. Each party must receive a summons through mail, hand delivery, or drop-off. Service by mail is not always a preferred method of delivery. But if there are circumstances that prevent you from delivery summons in person, then service by mail is approved by Supreme Court and is constitutional under Due Process Clause.

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