Brief Fact Summary. The plaintiffs challenged a tax which was assessed against their real property by the city council over plaintiffs’ written objections, without affording them a hearing.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Due process of law as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States requires that, where the legislature of a State authorizes a subordinate body to levy taxes, the taxpayer shall have an opportunity to be heard before the tax becomes irrevocably fixed. The taxpayer must have notice, either personal, by publication, or by a law fixing the time and place of the hearing.
Issue. Upon these facts, was there a denial of due process of law guaranteed by the Constitution, and was the assessment valid?
Held. Reversed. The assessment was void, as plaintiffs were not allowed an opportunity to be heard and therefore denied due process of law. The hearing requirement was not met by plaintiffs’ submission of their brief; due process required that they have the opportunity to support their allegations by argument and, if necessary, by proof. A hearing was denied to plaintiffs in error.
Discussion. There are few constitutional restrictions on states’ power to assess, apportion and collect taxes. However, where the legislature authorizes a subordinate body to make a determination of the tax, due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment requires that the taxpayer be afforded a hearing, of which he must have notice. The hearing requirement is not satisfied by the mere right to file objections.