In 1967, Gary Jones purchased a house on North Bryan Street in Little Rock, Arkansas. He and his wife lived in the house until they separated in 1993. Jones then moved into an apartment in Little Rock, and his wife continued to live in the house. Jones paid his mortgage each month for 30 years. The mortgage company paid the property taxes on the house. After Jones paid off his mortgage in 1997, the property taxes went unpaid. In April 2000, the Arkansas Commissioner of State Lands (Commissioner) attempted to notify Jones of his tax delinquency and his right to redeem the property by paying the past-due taxes. The Commissioner sought to provide this notice by mailing a certified letter to Jones at the North Bryan Street address. Arkansas law approved the use of such a method of providing notice. The packet of information sent by the Commissioner stated that unless Jones redeemed the property, it would be subject to public sale two years later. No one was at home to sign for the letter. No one appeared at the post office to retrieve the letter within the next 15 days. The post office then returned the unopened packet to the Commissioner with an "unclaimed" designation on it. In the spring of 2002, a few weeks before the public sale scheduled for Jones's house, the Commissioner published a notice of public sale in a local newspaper. No bids were submitted, meaning that under Arkansas law, the state could negotiate a private sale of the property.
Several months later, Linda Flowers submitted a purchase offer. The Commissioner then mailed another certified letter to Jones at the North Bryan Street address, attempting to notify him that his house would be sold to Flowers if he did not pay his delinquent taxes. As with the first letter, the second letter was returned to the Commissioner with an "unclaimed" designation. Flowers purchased the house. Immediately after the expiration of the 30-day period in which Arkansas law would have allowed Jones to make a post-sale redemption of the property by paying the past-due taxes, Flowers had an eviction notice delivered to the North Bryan Street property. The notice was served on Jones's daughter, who contacted Jones and notified him of the tax sale. Jones then filed a lawsuit in Arkansas state court against the Commissioner and Flowers. In his lawsuit, Jones contended that the Commissioner's failure to provide notice of the tax sale and of Jones's right to redeem resulted in the taking of his property without due process. The trial court ruled in favor of the Commissioner and Flowers, and the Arkansas Supreme Court affirmed. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to decide the case and its central question of whether Jones was afforded due process. How did the U.S. Supreme Court rule?

  • CreatedJuly 16, 2014
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