Lyng v. Payne
476 U.S. 926 (1986)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Lyng v. Payne, 476 U.S. 926 (1986)

Lyng v. Payne

No. 84-1948

Argued March 24, 1986

Decided June 17, 1986

476 U.S. 926

Syllabus

Under the Consolidated Farm and Rural Development Act, the Secretary of Agriculture has authority to make emergency loans to farmers who suffer economic losses as a result of a natural disaster. Pursuant to a rule of the Farmers Home Administration (FmHA), the Secretary required loan applicants suffering from disasters occurring between December 26, 1972, and April 20, 1973, to file their applications by April 2, 1974. That rule embodied the command of Pub.L. 93-237 to keep such loan programs open at least until that date. During this period, loans were available on terms far more generous than under later versions of the authorizing statute. In 1976, a class action was instituted in Federal District Court, in which respondents represented farmers who had been eligible for loans during this period as the result of a Florida flood occurring in early April, 1973, but who, because of lack of notice, had not been aware of their eligibility. It was alleged, inter alia, that the FmHA's failure to publicize the program more fully violated its own regulations, and an injunction was sought to require the FmHA to reopen the loan program. The District Court granted the requested relief, finding that the FmHA, in violation of one of its own regulations, had failed to give adequate notice of the availability of loans, and requiring the agency to reopen the program for the period from April 15, 1981, to June 15, 1981. The Court of Appeals affirmed on different grounds, holding that the FmHA had failed to comply with another regulation that required it to notify the public through the news media of the program's generous terms. After an earlier remand from this Court, the Court of Appeals adhered to its prior views and reinstated its decision, observing that petitioner Government officials' liability was premised on the FmHA's failure to follow its own regulations.

Held:

1. The lower courts erred in holding that the Secretary's conduct violated the notice procedures relevant to the implementation of Pub.L. 93-237. Accordingly, even assuming, arguendo, that reopening the loan program would have been an appropriate remedy had the relevant regulations been violated, awarding that relief was clearly improper in light of the FmHA's compliance with its own procedures. The agency's applicable

Page 476 U. S. 927

regulations provided for press releases to inform the news media of the "provisions of P.L. No. 93-237." Public Law 93-237 itself said nothing about the availability of the generous terms of the loan program, but merely stated that loans with respect to disasters occurring prior to April 20, 1973, would be administered under Pub.L. 92-385, and thus the statement in the FmHA's news releases that "loan applications will be taken under the terms of a new law (P.L. 93-23) enacted January 2, 1974," was no less informative than were the "provisions" of the Act the release was endeavoring to describe. And in light of the history of Pub.L. 93-237 and the regulatory history, the District Court's remedy cannot be supported on the theory that the FmHA violated its earlier notice requirements. Pp. 476 U. S. 935-942.

2. Nor can the injunctive relief be supported on the theory that inadequate notice of the loan program deprived the respondents of property without due process of law. Even assuming that respondents had a legitimate claim of entitlement protected by due process, the notice published by the Secretary in the Federal Register after the enactment of Pub.L. 93-237, which notice set out in detail the terms and conditions of the loan program, as well as the notice afforded by the Secretary in full compliance with his own procedures, was more than ample to satisfy any due process concerns. Pp. 476 U. S. 942-943.

751 F.2d 1191, reversed.

O'CONNOR, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. STEVENS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, post, p. 476 U. S. 943.

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