Flagg Brothers v. Brooks Case Brief

Summary of Flagg Brothers v. Brooks
436 U. S. 149. [1978]

Application of the Constitution to Private Conduct – Private Performance of Govt Functions.

Relevant Facts: Resp. Brooks and her family were evicted from their apartment, the City Marshal arranged for their possessions to be stored by Flagg Bros. in its warehouse. Brooks was informed of the costs associated, and she instructed the workmen to proceed despite her objections to the price. Two months later, and after several disputes over the bill, Respondent received notice that her furniture would be sold unless the account was paid w/i 10 days.

Legal Issue(s): Whether Flagg Brothers actions served as a deprivation of Respondent’s rights under law, and if so that deprivation was under color of law?

Court’s Holding: No.

Procedure: Brooks initiated and requested injunctive and declaratory [that the sale was in violation of EP Cl and D. P Cl of 14th ] relief. D. Ct. dismissed, Ct. of App. reversed. Reversed.

Law or Rule(s): §1983 – 1) Party must show a deprivation of a right “secured by the Constitution and the laws of the U.S; and 2) opposition deprived them of their rights acting under color of law.

Court Rationale: Disputes between debtors and creditors is not traditionally a state function. The State of N .Y has not compelled the sale of Respondents goods. The state law on sets forth the conditions and circumstances under which its courts will not interfere with a private sale. Exclusively Public functions which are traditional are education, fire and police protection, and tax collection. Private commercial transactions would not be an appropriate are into which to expand it. State delegations of power should be limited to those rare instances where the State has ceded one of its exclusive powers.

Plaintiff’s Argument: [Brooks] N Y has delegated to Flagg the power to resolve private disputes involving seizure of property, a power traditionally exclusive to the State, by authorizing and encouraging that action by law.

Defendant’s Argument: The private deprivation of property between a judgment creditor and debtor are not State functions, actionable by §1983.

Minority– The power to order legally binding deprivations of private property is derived from the State law, or consent through it. If the State controls nonconsensual deprivations of property then the State’s control is subject to the Due Process Clause restrictions.

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