Fuentes v. Shevin

407 U.S. 67 (1972)

Yeazell, pp. 369-378


Facts: Fuentes bought some stuff on credit from Firestone and also had a service contract with them.  There was a dispute over the service contract.  Firestone went to small-claims court to repossess the stuff and got a writ of replevin before Fuentes was even notified of the proceeding.  It turned out that in Florida, the procedure to get a writ of replevin was very minimal.  The sheriff went and took the stuff.  Fuentes sued, saying that her Fourteenth Amendment right to due process had been violated.


Issue: Does procedural due process require the chance for a hearing before the state takes someone’s stuff?


Rule: The state can only take stuff without a hearing when:


1.     The seizure is directly necessary to protect an important public interest.

2.     There is a special need for prompt action.

3.     The state keeps strict control of the seizure process by having a government official make sure the seizure is necessary and justified.


Analysis: The court finds that the Florida statute under which Fuentes’s stuff was taken fails on all three counts.  First, the statute doesn’t serve an important public interest, but only the private interest in protecting private profits.  Second, the statute is drawn too broadly and not limited to situations requiring prompt action.  Finally, the statute lets private parties use state power to take other people’s stuff without the participation of a state official in the evaluation of the immediate need to do so.  This statute is NO GOOD!


Conclusion: The Florida statute is burninated.


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