371 U.S. 208 (1962), 75, Schroeder v. City of New York

Docket Nº:No. 75
Citation:371 U.S. 208, 83 S.Ct. 279, 9 L.Ed.2d 255
Party Name:Schroeder v. City of New York
Case Date:December 17, 1962
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 208

371 U.S. 208 (1962)

83 S.Ct. 279, 9 L.Ed.2d 255

Schroeder

v.

City of New York

No. 75

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 17, 1962

Argued November 15, 1962

APPEAL FROM THE COURT OF APPEALS OF NEW YORK

Syllabus

Under the New York City Water Supply Act, the City instituted proceedings to acquire the right to divert portion of a river some 25 miles upstream from appellant's summer home, which was on the bank of the river and was occupied only during the months of July and August each year. Although appellant's name and address could easily have been ascertained from deed records and tax rolls, no attempt was made to give notice to appellant except by publication in newspapers and by posting notices during the month of January on trees and poles along the river. Alleging that she had no actual knowledge of the proceedings until after the statutory period for filing damage claims had expired, appellant sought redress in the New York courts.

Held: in the circumstances of this case, the newspaper publications and posted notices did not measure up to the quality of notice which the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment requires. Pp. 208-214.

10 N.Y.2d 522, 180 N.E.2d 568, reversed.

STEWART, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STEWART delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question presented by this case is whether the City of New York deprived the appellant of due process of law by failing to give her adequate notice of condemnation proceedings affecting certain property she owned on the

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Neversink River in Orange County, New York. The property in question consisted of a house and three and one-half acres of land, which the appellant and her family occupied only during the months of July and August each year.

In 1952, the city instituted a proceeding under the provisions of the New York City Water Supply Act1 to acquire the right to divert a portion of the Neversink River at a point in Sullivan County, New York, some 25 miles upstream from the appellant's property. The Water Supply Act, which sets out the procedure to be followed by the New York Board of Water Supply in condemning land, easements, and rights affecting real property required for the New York City water system, provides that notice of such condemnation proceedings be given to affected landowners in the following manner:

The corporation counsel shall give notice in the City Record, and in two public newspapers published in the city of New York and in two public newspapers published in each [83 S.Ct. 281] other county in which any real estate laid out on such maps may be located, and which it is proposed to acquire in the proceeding, of his intention to make application to such court for the appointment of commissioners of appraisal. . . . Such notice shall be so published, once in each week, in each of such newspapers, for six weeks immediately previous to the presentation of such petition; and the corporation counsel shall in addition to such advertisement cause copies of the same in handbills to be posted up for the same space of time in at least twenty conspicuous places on the line of the aqueduct or in the vicinity of the real estate so to be taken or affected.2

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The Act further provides that all claims for damages resulting from the city's acquisition are barred after three years.3

Proceeding in accordance with the statute, the city caused notice of its acquisition of the right to divert the Neversink to be published the requisite number of times in the City Record of the City of New York, in two New York City newspapers, and in two newspapers published in Orange County, and in addition posted 22 notices on trees and poles along a seven-or eight-mile stretch of the river in the general vicinity of the appellant's premises. No notice was posted anywhere on the appellant's property itself. The two Orange County newspapers in which publication was made were published in small communities many miles from the appellant's property, although at the time there were newspapers being published in larger Orange County towns nearby. The notices were posted on the trees and poles during the month of January, when the appellant's premises were vacant. Although the appellant's name and address were readily ascertainable from both deed records and tax rolls, neither the newspaper publications nor the posted notices contained the name of the appellant or of any other affected property owner. Neither the newspaper publications nor the posted notices explained what action a property owner might take to recover for damages caused by the city's acquisition, nor did they intimate any time limit upon the filing of a claim by an affected property owner.

The appellant did not file a claim for damages to her property within the three-year period prescribed by the Water Supply Act. In January, 1960, however, she brought the present equitable action in a New York trial court. Her complaint alleged that she had never been notified of the condemnation proceedings, and knew nothing

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about them, nor of her right to make a claim against the city for damages to her property, until after she had consulted a lawyer in 1959. She alleged that, by failing to give her adequate notice of the condemnation proceedings, the city had deprived her of property in violation of due...

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