Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co. – Case Brief
Summary of Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co., 339 U.S. 306, 70 S. Ct. 652, 94 L. Ed. 865 (1950).
Central Hanover Bank (P) was the trustee of a common trust fund formed by pooling the assets of a number of smaller trusts. Central Hanover Bank petitioned to the New York Surrogate’s Court for a judicial settlement of the trust. The only notice provided to beneficiaries was via publication in a newspaper. Mullane (D) was appointed attorney and special guardian for a number of beneficiaries who either were unknown or did not appear.
Mullane objected to the statutory provision for notice by publication, arguing that it was unconstitutional for lack of due process under the Fourteenth Amendment. The Surrogate’s Court overruled Mullane’s objection and the ruling was affirmed on appeal to the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division and the New York Court of Appeals. The United States Supreme Court granted cert.
- 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 Fourteenth Amendment?
Holding and Rule
- No. 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 Fourteenth Amendment.
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 interests were too conjectural to be known with certainty.
See Pennoyer v. Neff for a law school civil procedure case brief in which publication of notice in a newspaper was ineffective to establish personal jurisdiction over the defendant.