Greene v. Lindsey

456 U.S. 444 (1982)


  • Appellees (Lindsey, etc) are tenants in a housing project in Louisville Ky.
  • The Sheriff (Appellants) and other police officers went to serve a notice of forcible entry and detainer actions against appellees, seeking repossession of their apartments.
  • Finding nobody home and in accordance with Ky. statute, the officer(s) posted the notice on the door of the apartments
  • Appellees claim not to have received these notices.
  • In the particular housing project, it is common for other tenants to rip down posted notices before they reached their purpose 

Procedural History:

  • The sheriff served notice of forcible entry and detainer actions against appellees by posting
  • There were default judgments against the appellees for failure o show up in court, and their opportunity for appeal lapsed
  • Appellees were served with writs of possession for their apartments
  • Appellees filed class action suit in Federal District Court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming the eviction proceedings did not conform with due process notice.
  • The District Court filed summary judgment for appellants, because despite common knowledge that postings in that particular building were torn down before their intended purpose, posting satisfied notice provided under due process.
  • The Court of Appeals of the 6th Circuit reversed the summary judgment for appellants and remanded for further proceedings
  • Affirmed

Contentions of parties:

Appellees: Eviction procedure did not satisfy minimum constitutional requirements for adequate notice provided by due process.


Whether posting is adequate notice under due process where it is common knowledge that others frequently tear down such postings before they complete their intended purpose.


Posting is not adequate notice under due process where it is common knowledge that others frequently tear down such postings before they complete their intended purpose because posting is not “reasonably calculated under the circumstances” and mail, an adequate substitute, is not burdensome enough not to be employed.


Notice must be adequate under (all) specific circumstances. If the customary notice is not adequate, and there is a relatively cheap and effective alternative, that alternative must be used to satisfy due process.


* Due process depends on (1) notice and (2) the opportunity to be heard.

* Even though notice in person is ideal, less rigorous methods have traditionally been accepted. Nevertheless, these traditional forms of notice must be “reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances” Mullane v. Central Hanover Bank & Trust Co. (1950).

* In most cases, posting is sufficient notice, especially if it is done at a residence and even more so if the residence’s possession is in contention.

* But given the circumstances of the case, others frequently tear down such postings before they complete their intended purpose, this does not set the notice standard set out by Mullane.

* The court also rejects appellant’s characterization of posting as a last resort, because it is done after one visit.

* The reasonableness of the method of notice should also be weighed in light of whether there is a customary, efficient, and reliable method that could be an alternative to posting, and in this case, the mail is one such alternative.

* In light of the existence of a viable alternative, and the unreliability of posting in this case, due process was not satisfied.

* Mail should not be a substitute but an enhancement.

Court’s Order:

Remanded for further proceedings



* Court offers no evidence that mail if either fast or reliable, and does not evaluate the risks of mail, especially under the circumstances. There are also no evaluations of the advantages, if any of the advantages of mail.

* Existence of landlord-tenant relationship needs a speedy, direct way for the landlord to protect his interests as well as taking the law into his own hands.

New Information, questions, etc:

Mullane Sets the general standard of notice: “reasonably calculated, under all the circumstances”

RFCP Rule 4 specifically states how to give constitutional notice. Hand notice was assumed until 1983-1993, which moved toward mail delivery. Today the trend is toward electronic methods.

Still, hand-delivery is unlikely to go away completely, due in part to the existence of process servers.