Civil Procedure I, Pages 161–167

Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co.

Supreme Court of the United States, 1950

Facts:

Central Hanover established a common trust fund in New York for a variety of trustees. For its first accounting it had to give notice to the trustees of its 113 pooled trusts, at least some of which were not from New York. It did so by taking out an ad, which did not name any trustees, in the local newspaper one day a week for four weeks, the statutory minimum notice. It had previously notified the trustees this is how notice would be given. For the accounting, a special guardian, Mullane, was a appointed for the trustees who did not appear, which was all of them.

Procedural History:

Trial court, appellate court, and state court of last resort all ruled that the notice required and given was sufficient.

Issue:

Did the petitioner's notice satisfy due process?

Petitioner's Argument:

Page 163, Paragraph 2Notice and statutory provisions for notice to beneficiaries were inadequate to afford due process.

Rule:

Pages 164–165Notice must be "reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances, to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to present their objections. The notice must be of such nature as reasonably to convey the required information, and it must afford a reasonable time for those interested to make their appearance."

Reasoning:

Process which is merely a gesture is not due process. It would be folly to pretend that publication alone as petitioner did here is a reliable means of informing interested parties. Even local residents are not likely to notice the notice. An out-of-state resident not even named in a small local newspaper ad is no more than a feint. While newspaper notices can be sufficient when other ways are impractical, such as when addresses are unknown, petitioner knew addresses for many of the trustees, removing any tenable ground for not giving a serious effort to inform them properly, especially as petitioner mailed them before.

Holding:

No, petitioner's notice did not satisfy due process. Judgment reversed and cause remanded.

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