OCTOBER TERM, 2002
on petition for writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit
No. 02-1212. Decided May 19, 2003
Respondent David paid petitioner Los Angeles $134.50 to recover his car, which had been towed from a spot where parking was prohibited, and requested a hearing to recover the money. The hearing was held 27 days after the car was towed and his claim was denied. He then filed a 42 U. S. C. § 1983 suit, claiming that the city violated his due process rights by failing to provide a sufficiently prompt hearing. The District Court granted the city summary judgment, but the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the Constitution required the city to provide an earlier hearing, perhaps within 48 hours of towing and at least within 5 days.
Held: The Due Process Clause does not prohibit an agency from imposing the kind of procedural delay experienced here when holding hearings to consider claims such as David's. The three factors that normally determine whether an individual has received the "process" that the Constitution finds "due"—which were set forth in Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U. S. 319, 335, and applied in FDIC v. Mallen, 486 U. S. 230, 242— require reversal of the Ninth Circuit's decision. The first factor—the "private interest" affected by the official action—is a monetary interest that does not work the far more serious harm caused by the temporary deprivation of a job that was at issue in Mallen. The second factor— concern for accuracy—also does not support the Ninth Circuit's conclusion. A 30-day delay in presenting evidence is unlikely to spawn significant factual errors, and the nature of the issue—whether a car is illegally parked—indicates that initial towing errors are unlikely. The third factor—the government's interest—argues strongly in the city's favor. Only five percent of the 1,000 impound hearings the city holds annually are conducted within 48 hours, and those involve persons who cannot afford the impoundment fees. The delay is substantially required by administrative needs related to organizing the hearing, e. g., arranging for the towing officer to appear. Requiring the city to hold 1,000 hearings, rather than 50, within a short time period would prove burdensome.
Certiorari granted; 307 F. 3d 1143, reversed.
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