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.
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. 371 U. S.
10 N.Y.2d 522, 180 N.E.2d 568, reversed.
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
Page 371 U. S. 209
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 Act [Footnote 1
] 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 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.
Page 371 U. S. 210
The Act further provides that all claims for damages resulting
from the city's acquisition are barred after three years. [Footnote 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
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
Page 371 U. S. 211
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 process of law. The trial court
granted the city's motion for judgment on the pleadings in an
unreported opinion holding that "the notice provisions of Section
K41-8.0 of the Water Supply Act -- admittedly fully complied with
by the defendant" -- were not "violative of the due process
provisions of the Federal and State Constitutions. . . ." This
judgment was affirmed by the Appellate Division, [Footnote 4
] and by the New York Court of
Appeals, two judges dissenting. [Footnote 5
] The case is properly here on appeal under 28
U.S.C. § 1257(2).
We hold that the newspaper publications and posted notices in
the circumstances of this case did not measure up to the quality of
notice which the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment
"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. Milliken v.
Meyer, 311 U. S. 457
; Grannis v.
Ordean, 234 U. S. 385
; Priest v. Las
Vegas, 232 U. S. 604
; Roller v.
Holly, 176 U. S. 398
Page 371 U. S. 212
Hanover Tr. Co., 339 U. S. 306
339 U. S. 314
In the Mullane
case, which involved notice by publication
to the beneficiaries of a common trust fund, the Court thoroughly
canvassed the problem of sufficiency of notice under the Due
Process Clause, pointing out the reasons behind the basic
constitutional rule, as well as the practical considerations which
make it impossible to draw a standard set of specifications as to
what is constitutionally adequate notice, to be mechanically
applied in every situation.
As was emphasized in Mullane,
the requirement that
parties be notified of proceedings affecting their legally
protected interests is obviously a vital corollary to one of the
most fundamental requisites of due process -- the right to be
"This right . . . has little reality or worth unless one is
informed that the matter is pending and can choose for himself
whether to appear or default, acquiesce or contest."
339 U.S. at 339 U. S. 314
The Court recognized the practical impossibility of giving personal
notice in some cases, such as those involving missing or unknown
persons. But the inadequacies of "notice" by publication were
described in words that bear repeating here:
"Chance alone brings to the attention of even a local resident
an advertisement in small type inserted in the back pages of a
newspaper, and, if he makes his home outside the area of the
newspaper's normal circulation, the odds that the information will
never reach him are large indeed. The chance of actual notice is
further reduced when, as here, the notice required does not even
name those whose attention it is supposed to attract, and does not
inform acquaintances who might call it to attention."
339 U.S. at 339 U. S.
The general rule that emerges from the Mullane
that notice by publication is not enough with respect to a person
whose name and address are known or very
Page 371 U. S. 213
easily ascertainable and whose legally protected interests are
directly affected by the proceedings in question.
"Where the names and post office addresses of those affected by
a proceeding are at hand, the reasons disappear for resort to means
less likely than the mails to apprise them of its pendency."
339 U.S. at 339 U. S.
This rule was applied in New York v. New York, N.H. & H.
R. Co., 344 U. S. 293
344 U. S. 296
where the Court pointed out that "[n]otice by publication is a
poor, and sometimes a hopeless, substitute for actual service of
notice," and that "[i]ts justification is difficult, at best." The
rule was applied again in Walker v. Hutchinson City,
352 U. S. 112
a factual situation much akin to that in the present case. In
part of the appellant's land had been taken in
condemnation proceedings, and he had been given "notice" of a
proceeding to fix his compensation only by publication in the
official city newspaper. The Court held that such notice was
constitutionally insufficient, noting that the appellant's name
"was known to the city, and was on the official records," and
"[e]ven a letter would have apprised him that his property was
about to be taken and that he must appear if he wanted to be heard
as to its value."
352 U.S. at 352 U. S.
Decision in the case before us, we think, is clearly controlled
by the rule stated in the Mullane
case, and by the
specifically relevant application of that rule in the
case. It is true that, in addition to publishing in
newspapers, the city in the present case did put some signs on
trees and poles along the banks of the river. But no such sign was
placed anywhere on the appellant's property, or ever seen by her.
The posting of these signs, therefore, did not constitute the
personal notice that the rule enunciated in the Mullane
The majority opinion in the New York Court of Appeals seems
additionally to have drawn support from an assumption that the
effect of the city's diversion of the
Page 371 U. S. 214
river must have been apparent to the appellant before the
expiration of the three-year period within which the statute
required that her claim be filed. 10 N.Y.2d at 526-527, 225
N.Y.S.2d at 213, 180 N.E.2d at 569-570. There was no such
allegation in the pleadings, upon which the case was decided by the
trial court. But even putting this consideration aside, knowledge
of a change in the appearance of the river is far short of notice
that the city had diverted it, and that the appellant had a right
to be heard on a claim for compensation for damages resulting from
the diversion. [Footnote 6
That was the information which the city was constitutionally
obliged to make at least a good faith effort to give personally to
the appellant -- an obligation which the mailing of a single letter
would have discharged.
The judgment of the New York Court of Appeals is reversed, and
the cause is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with
It is so ordered.
Administrative Code of City of New York, Title K41.
Administrative Code of City of New York, Title K41-8.0.
Administrative Code of City of New York, Title K41-18.0.
14 A.D.2d 183, 217 N.Y.S.2d 975.
10 N.Y.2d 522, 225 N.Y.S.2d 210, 180 N.E.2d 568. Although the
complaint prayed for a judgment enjoining the city from diverting
the waters of the Neversink, the New York courts construed the
pleading as the appropriate way to raise the question of the
adequacy of the notice provisions and to assert the right to be
heard on the issue of damages. In her brief, the appellant has
conceded that she is not entitled to an injunction. Cf. Walker
v. Hutchinson City, 352 U. S. 112
352 U. S. 114
The complaint alleged damages based upon the impairment of the
river's value to the appellant for "bathing, swimming, fishing and
boating." This claimed impairment allegedly resulted not from any
change in the river's course, depth, or configuration, but from a
decrease in the velocity of its flow.