Thursday, April 27, 2006

SCOTUS issues due process opinion on tax sales

In Jones v. Flowers, SCOTUS dealt with a notice of tax sale that was mailed to the owner and returned undelivered. In this situation, according to the Court, the government must take additional reasonable steps to provide notice before taking the owner's property. According to the Court, reasonable steps the government should take to satisfy due process include:

  • Resending the letter by regular mail: "Following up with regular mail might also increase the chances of actual notice to Jones if it turned out he had moved. "
  • To post notice on the front door, or to address otherwise undeliverable mail to occupant.

The rationale behind the opinion is summed up as follows:

There is no reason to suppose that the State will ever be
less than fully zealous in its efforts to secure the tax revenue
it needs. The same cannot be said for the State's
efforts to ensure that its citizens receive proper notice
before the State takes action against them. In this case,
the State is exerting extraordinary power against a property
owner--taking and selling a house he owns. It is not
too much to insist that the State do a bit more to
attempt to let him know about it when the notice letter addressed
to him is returned unclaimed.

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