Mennonite Board of Missions v. Adams Case Brief

Summary of Mennonite Board of Missions v. Adams 462 U.S. 791 (1983)

Pf: MBM, had owned property

Df: Richard Adams, bought property

Pro His / Order: Adams filed for quiet title and summary judgment. Pf claimed inadequate service. Trial court upheld tax sale statute against the service challenge. Court of appeals affirmed. Supreme court reverses. MBM wins.

Facts: To secure an obligation, Alfred Jean Moore executed a mortgage in favor of MBM. Moore had purchased land from MBM. Moore was supposed to pay taxes on the land. She didn’t. MBM was not aware of this. The County then moved to sell the property for lack of tax payment. County provided service per state law; posted in courthouse, published an announcement, and sent Moore a certified letter. MBM was not informed of the action by Moore or county auditor. The land was sold to Adam (Df). Neither Moore nor MBM was at sale. Moore continued to pay on the land to MBM, who didn’t know land was sold.

Issue: Whether notice by publication and posting provides a mortgage of real property with adequate notice of a proceeding to sell the mortaged property for nonpayment of taxes?

Holding: no, it is not.

Rule: 14th amendment / due process


a. A mortagee has a protected property interest, this they are entitled to notice that is reasonably calculated to apprise them of pending tax sale(s). (see dissent)

b. Unless a mortagee is not reasonably identifiable, constructive notice alone does not satisfy the mandate of Mullane

c. Constructive notice, in this case, is primarily designed to attract prospective buyers, and are unlikely to reach those who do not make special efforts to keep abreast of such notices

d. Notice to property owner, who is not in privity with creditors and has failed to keep property (i.e. not paying taxes to the The Man), cannot be surmised to lead to actual notice.

e. The Courts use of less reliable forms of notice is not sufficient when an inexpensive and efficient means, such as mail, is available.

Dissent: main jist of dissent: The court has been against a standard by which process needs to happen. Process needs to be tailored to a given situation and circumstances. However, with the majority holding in this case, the court has now set a low-bar standard for process; notice by mail or other means to establish certain notice is a minimum constitutional requirement for any legally protected property interest. “This is a flat rejection of the ‘no formula’ can adequately…evaluate process to a certain class" –O’Connor. She goes on to say that policy considerations of the state override that of process. MBM shouldn’t get off the hook do to process when it could have very easily looked after its own interests.

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