Certain less rigorous notice procedures than personal service of process have enjoyed substantial acceptance throughout American legal history; in light of the history and the practical obstacles to providing personal service in every instance, judicial proceedings may be prosecuted in some situations on the basis of procedures that do not carry with them the same certainty of actual notice that inheres in personal service. However, an elementary and fundamental requirement of due process in any proceeding which is to be accorded finality is notice reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances, to apprise interested parties of the pendency of the action and afford them an opportunity to present their objections.
Appellees Linnie Lindsey, Barbara Hodgens, and Pamela Ray are tenants in a Louisville, Ky., housing project. Appellants are the Sheriff of Jefferson County, Ky., and certain unnamed Deputy Sheriffs charged with responsibility for serving process in forcible entry and detainer actions. In 1975, the Housing Authority of Louisville initiated detainer actions against each of appellees, seeking repossession of their apartments. Service of process was made pursuant to Ky. Rev. Stat. § 454.030 (1975). Under this provision, the deputies posted notices of forcible detainer actions on the tenants' apartment doors, even though the deputies knew that children removed the notices before the tenants saw them. The tenants did not know about the actions until they received a writ of possession. The tenants claimed that their property was taken from them without due process of law under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Does the statute, as applied to tenants in a public housing project, fail to afford tenants the notice of proceedings initiated against them required by the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?
The notice posted on the doors failed to afford the tenants the notice of proceedings initiated against them required by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment since, in a significant number of instances, reliance on posting pursuant to provisions of the statute resulted in a failure to provide actual notice to the tenants concerned, the state--in failing to afford the tenants adequate notice of the proceedings against them before issuing the final orders of eviction--had deprived them of property without due process of law.
Thus, In light of the fact that appellees were deprived of a significant interest in property and, indeed, of the right to continued residence in their homes, it does not suffice to recite that because the action was in rem, it was only necessary to serve notice "upon the thing itself." The sufficiency of the notice must be tested with reference to its ability to inform people of the pendency of proceedings that affect their interests.