[JURIST] The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday handed down decisions in two cases, including Jones v. Flowers [Duke Law case backgrounder], 04-1477, where the Court held that before a state can sell property for failure of the property owner to pay taxes, the state must take additional "reasonable" steps to provide notice to the property owner when "practicable" to do so if mailed notice of a tax sale is returned unclaimed. In the 5-3 ruling, the Court reversed an Arkansas Supreme Court decision [text] which upheld the sale of Jones' house, saying that Arkansas' tax sale statute met due process requirements. The Supreme Court disagreed, ruling that because "additional reasonable steps" were available to Arkansas state authorities, their efforts to only notify Jones by certified mail were insufficient to satisfy due process. Read the Court's majority opinion [text] per Chief Justice Roberts, along with a dissent [text] from Justice Thomas, who was joined by Justices Scalia and Kennedy. Justice Alito took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
In a second decision Wednesday, the Court held in Hartman v. Moore [Duke Law case backgrounder], 04-1495, that "a plaintiff in a retaliatory-prosecution action must plead and show the absence of probable cause for pressing the underlying criminal charges." Moore was tried and acquitted on charges that he and his company improperly influenced the search for a new Postmaster General and he subsequently sued a group of postal inspectors, arguing that they had encouraged his prosecution in retaliation for Moore's earlier lobbying efforts to win USPS contracts. In the 5-2 ruling, the court reversed a US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit decision [PDF text] rejecting the inspectors' motion for summary judgment because the criminal charges against Moore were supported by probable cause. Read the Court's majority opinion [text] per Justice Souter, along with a dissent [text] from Justice Ginsburg, who was joined by Justice Breyer. Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito did not participate in the case. SCOTUSblog has more.