LOCATION:United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
DOCKET NO.: 76-39
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
CITATION: 436 US 1 (1978)
ARGUED: Nov 02, 1977
DECIDED: May 01, 1978
Frierson M. Graves, Jr. – for petitioners
Thomas M. Daniel – for respondents
Media for Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division v. Craft
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – May 01, 1978 in Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division v. Craft
Warren E. Burger:
The judgment and the opinion of the Court in Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division against Craft will be announced by Mr. Justice Powell.
Lewis F. Powell, Jr.:
The respondents in this case are home owners in Memphis, Tennessee.
They are utility customers for gas and electric service of the Gas, Light and Water division of the City of Memphis.
The dispute arose with respect to of what respondents thought was double billing and during the relevant period, respondent’s utility service was terminated on five occasions, allegedly for non-payment of bills.
Respondents were not explicitly advised as to how and before whom the dispute could resolved.
Respondents brought this action against the City’s utility division and several of its officers.
They claimed that service has been terminated without affording them the fair opportunity to be heard.
Injunctive and damage relief were sought.
Under Tennessee law the right to continued utility service so long as proper bills were paid is a protected interest in the property.
Thus respondents could not lawfully be deprived of this interest without notice and a fair opportunity to be heard.
Although the District Court rejected respondent’s claim.
The Court of Appeals held that petitioner’s procedure with respect to the termination of service did not comport with the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
In the Appellate Court view the constitutional guarantee requires that a publicly owned utility provide due notice of the proposed termination and an established procedure of resolution of disputed bills.
Termination of utility service can effect health and even life itself.
For the reasons stated more fully in the opinion filed today with a clerk, we agree with petitioners, we agree that that petitioner’s dispute resolution procedure, failed to afford respondents a fair opportunity for the informal resolution of disputed bills.
Accordingly we affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals.
Mr. Justice Stevens has filed a dissenting opinion in which the Chief Justice and Mr. Justice Rehnquist join.
Warren E. Burger:
Thank you, Mr. Justice Powell.