A Small Victory for Private Property Owners
As it turned out, there was no public sale, because no bids were submitted. The state was thus permitted to negotiate a private sale of the property, and it did, to one Linda Flowers. The state then sent yet another certified letter to 717 North Bryan, telling Mr. Jones that his property was about to be sold unless he paid up.
He did not pay, and Ms. Flowers bought the house in 2002 for just over $21,000, about a quarter of its fair market value. Mr. Jones learned about the sale from his daughter, who had learned about it after Ms. Flowers served an eviction notice.
The problem for Mr. Jones — and, as it turned out, for the state of Arkansas — was that he had moved out of the house in 1993, after he and his wife separated, and apparently never knew that it was about to be sold. . . . .
The majority opinion said the justices took the case to resolve a conflict among the federal circuit courts and state supreme courts on whether the Fourteenth Amendment's due-process clause requires the government to take additional reasonable steps to notify a property when notice of a tax sale is returned undelivered.
In this case, at least, the answer is "yes," the majority declared, citing the peculiarities of Mr. Jones's situation. . . . .