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The Due Process Clause grants the aggrieved party the opportunity to present his case and have its merits fairly judged. Thus, some form of hearing is required before the owner is finally deprived of a protected property interest. When a statutory scheme makes liability an important factor in the State's determination, the State may not eliminate consideration of that factor in its prior hearing. The State may not finally destroy a property interest without first giving the putative owner an opportunity to present his claim of entitlement. The State need not consider the merits of the claim when the claimant fails to comply with a reasonable procedural requirement, or fails to file a timely charge. On the other hand, the timing and nature of the required hearing will depend on appropriate accommodation of the competing interests involved. These include the importance of the private interest and the length or finality of the deprivation, the likelihood of governmental error, and the magnitude of the governmental interests involved.
The Illinois Fair Employment Practices Act (FEPA) barred employment discrimination on the basis of physical handicap unrelated to ability. To obtain relief, a complainant had to bring a charge of unlawful conduct before the Illinois Fair Employment Practices Commission (Commission) within 180 days of the occurrence of such alleged conduct. The statute then gave the Commission 120 days within which to convene a factfinding conference to obtain evidence, ascertain the parties' positions, and explore the possibility of a settlement. Laverne L. Logan, a probationary employee, was discharged purportedly because his short left leg made it impossible for him to perform his duties as a shipping clerk. Logan filed a timely charge alleging unlawful termination of his employment, but apparently through inadvertence the Commission scheduled the factfinding conference for a date 5 days after expiration of the 120-day statutory period. The Commission denied appellee's motion that the charge be dismissed for failure to hold a timely conference. On appeal, the Illinois Supreme Court held that the failure to comply with the 120-day convening requirement deprived the Commission of jurisdiction to consider Logan’s charge, and rejected Logan’s argument that his federal due process and equal protection rights would be violated were the Commission's error allowed to extinguish his cause of action.
May a State terminate a complainant's cause of action because a state official, for reasons beyond the complainant's control, failed to comply with a statutorily mandated procedure?
The Court held that Logan’s claim was constitutionally protected by the Due Process Clause because the right to use the FEPA adjudicatory procedures was guaranteed by the state, with the adequacy of his claim assessed under what was, in essence, a "for cause" standard, based upon the substantiality of the evidence. The Court found that the time limitation in FEPA deprived Logan of a property right, and that Logan was entitled to have the Commission consider the merits of his charge, based upon the substantiality of the available evidence, before deciding whether to terminate his claim.