The Supreme Court handed down an interesting case today, Jones v. Flowers. The question in the case was how much effort the state of Arkansas needed to take to notify an absent property owner before selling off the property for failure to pay property taxes, pursuant to the framework of Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co., 339 U. S. 306, 313 (1950).
In a 5-3 decision by the Chief Justice joined by Stevens, Souter, Breyer, and Ginsburg, the Court concluded that mailing two certified letters to the home (returned unclaimed) and publishing a notice in the newspaper wasn’t enough. Justice Thomas dissented, joined by Scalia and Kennedy, concluding that these steps were enough based on prior precedents. Alito didn’t participate.
It’s a narrow dispute on the whole, and a matter of fairly close line-drawing. It’s also one with interesting ideological tensions: to the extent the close line-drawing could be influenced by a Justice’s broader commitments, there were different commitments in play that could help explain the different votes. Still, it was interesting to see the Chief Justice align himself with the left-of-center Justices on a constitutional issue.