Thursday, May 23, 2013

Bell v. Burson case brief

Bell v. Burson case brief
402 U.S. 535, 91 S. Ct. 1586, 29 L. Ed. 2d 90 (1971)

CASE SYNOPSIS: Petitioner motorist sought review of a judgment from the Court of Appeals of Georgia ruling in favor of respondent, Director of Georgia Department of Public Safety. The appellate court found that an administrative hearing held prior to the suspension of the motorist's driver's license, pursuant to the statutory scheme set forth in Georgia's Motor Vehicle Safety Responsibility Act, Ga. Code Ann. § 92A-601 et seq. (1958), complied with due process.

FACTS: The motorist was involved in an accident with a bicyclist. The Act allowed the State to suspend the motorist's driver's license if the motorist was in a vehicle accident, did not have liability insurance, and failed to post bond for the damage amount after suit was brought against him. When the Director informed him about the Act's requirements, the motorist requested an administrative hearing. The Director conducted a hearing but rejected the motorist's proffer of evidence as to the issue of liability. The motorist then exercised his right to an appeal de novo in a superior court, which entered an order finding him free from fault and ordering that his license not be suspended. The appellate court reversed. In overturning the reversal, the United States Supreme Court first held that the motorist's interest in his license, as essential in the pursuit of his livelihood, was protected by due process and required a meaningful hearing. The Court further held that liability was a crucial factor in the hearing because an adjudication of nonliability would lift a suspension. Therefore, the State violated the motorist's due process rights by denying him a meaningful prior hearing.

CONCLUSION: The court reversed the appellate court's judgment and remanded the matter for further proceedings.

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