Flagg Bros., Inc. v. Brooks Case Brief

Facts of the Case

Plaintiff was evicted from her apartment, and her possessions were stored by defendant in its warehouse. After a series of disputes over the validity of charges claimed by defendant, plaintiff received a letter demanding that her account be brought up to date or her furniture would be sold pursuant to the state commercial code. Plaintiff then filed suit against defendant, seeking an injunction against the threatened sale of her belongings and the declaration that such a sale would violate the Due Process and. An order dismissing the complaint for failure to state a claim was reversed by the court of appeals. On review, the Court reversed.


Does the Supreme Court’s decision in Mills v. Maryland (1988) create a new rule of law that cannot be applied retroactively to award sentencing relief to a prisoner whose conviction became final before Mills was announced? 2. If Mills applies retroactively and a state supreme court rejects a Mills challenge because the jury was not told that it must unanimously agree on mitigating factors, is that decision consistent with Supreme Court precedent?


“No. Justice William H. Rehnquist delivered the opinion of the 5-3 majority. The Court held that the decision of the storage facility to sell the goods could not be considered a state action, and therefore did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment. To show that they had a claim worthy of relief, the respondents must have given evidence that they were denied a right guaranteed by the Constitution, and that Flagg Bros., Inc. was operating as the State of New York. The Court held that there was no deprivation of a Constitutional right, as the Constitution only protects against state seizure of property, not that of private actors. The Court also held that the statute that allows the sale to happen does not imply any state action, so Flagg Bros., Inc. was not acting on behalf of the state.Justice Thurgood Marshall wrote a dissent and argued that the statute allowed for unconstitutional discrimination against the poor, who were unable to pay the required fee in order to prevent the sale of their belongings. He also argued that the Court’s determination ignored the realities of the state’s role in eviction and subsequent legal procedures.In his dissenting opinion, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the company’s right to conduct the sale derived from the state, and not the original property owners, so the sale must be held to the standards of the Fourteenth Amendment. He argued that state authorization of a “nonconsensual resolution of conflict between debtor and creditor” is the type of action that the Due Process Clause was meant to prevent. Justice Byron R. White and Justice Thurgood Marshall joined in the dissent.Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. did not take part in the consideration or decision of the case.”

Case Information

Citation: 436 US 149 (1978)
Argued: Jan 18, 1978
Decided: May 15, 1978
Granted: Oct 3, 1977
Case Brief: 1978