Jackson v. Metropolitan Edison Co., No. 73-5845 Supreme Court of The United States 419 U.S. 345; 95 S. Ct. 449; 1974 U.S. LEXIS 50; 42 L. Ed. 2d 477; 8 P.U.R.4th 1
December 23, 1974, Decided
CORE TERMS: monopoly, termination, regulation, tariff, Fourteenth Amendment, regulated, electric, involvement, nonpayment, entity, state-action, customer, privately, certificate, entitlement, CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, convenience, terminated, householder, aggregate, discontinue, continuous, convert, terminate, conferred, furnish, deprivation, determinative, delinquency, depriving
An action for damages and injunctive relief was instituted against a privately owned Pennsylvania utility company in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, based on the company's termination of electric service to the plaintiff's home for nonpayment of bills. Originally, the company had terminated an account in the plaintiff's name for delinquency in payments, but service was resumed in the name of a third person, another occupant of the residence.
On certiorari, the United States Supreme Court affirmed. The Court held that the utility company's termination of service to the household did not constitute "state action" subject to Fourteenth Amendment due process requirements, since even though the company was engaged in a business affected with a public interest, was subject to extensive state regulation in many particulars, and enjoyed at least a partial monopoly within its service territory.
Douglas, J., dissented on the ground that when properly considered in the aggregate, rather than individually, the relevant factors in the case--the utility company's monopoly status, the public interest involved in its services, and the extensive state supervision and control--established that the utility company's termination of services was "state action," subject to procedural due process requirements.
Brennan, J., dissented expressed the view that the question whether termination of service constituted state action should not have been considered, since the third person, rather than the plaintiff, was the defendant's "customer" when service was terminated, there thus being no controversy between the plaintiff and the defendant.
Marshall, J., dissented stated that the writ of certiorari should have been dismissed as improvidently granted, since it was unclear whether the plaintiff had a property right under state law to the service she had received from the defendant, but in any event, state action should have been found, since the defendant, a monopoly, provided an essential public service, subject to regulation by the state, which approved the defendant's termination procedures--due process requiring, at a minimum, advance notice of a proposed termination with a clear indication that a responsible company official could readily be contacted to consider any claim of error.
JUDGES: REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C. J., and STEWART, WHITE, BLACKMUN, and POWELL, [***3] JJ., joined. DOUGLAS, J., post, p. 359, BRENNAN, J., post, p. 364, and MARSHALL, J., post, p. 365, filed dissenting opinions.
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