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On the Contractual Waiver of Due Process Rights

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  • Barry
    IF the IRS or some court tries to claim we are not entitled to Constitutional Due Process rights by virtue of some type of statutory contract, I think this
    Message 1 of 1 , Aug 9, 2010

      IF the IRS or some court tries to claim we are not entitled to Constitutional Due Process rights by virtue of some type of statutory contract, I think this would come into play:

      In D. H. Overmyer Co. v. Frick Co., 405 U.S. 174,  the Court recently outlined the considerations relevant to determination of a contractual waiver of due process rights. Applying the standards governing waiver of constitutional rights in a criminal proceeding*fn31  -- although not holding that such standards must necessarily apply -- the Court held that, on the particular facts of that case, the contractual waiver of due process rights was "voluntarily, intelligently, and knowingly" made. Id., at 187. The contract in Overmyer was negotiated between two corporations; the waiver provision was specifically bargained for and drafted by their lawyers in the process of these negotiations. As the Court noted, it was "not a case of unequal bargaining power or overreaching. The Overmyer-Frick agreement, from the start, was not a contract of adhesion." Id., at 186. Both parties were "aware of the significance" of the waiver provision. Ibid.


      [57]        The facts of the present cases are a far cry from those of Overmyer. There was no bargaining over contractual terms between the parties who, in any event, were far from equal in bargaining power. The purported waiver provision was a printed part of a form sales contract and a necessary condition of the sale. The appellees made no showing whatever that the appellants were actually aware or made aware of the significance of the fine print now relied upon as a waiver of constitutional rights.


      [58]        The Court in Overmyer observed that "where the contract is one of adhesion, where there is great disparity in bargaining power, and where the debtor receives nothing for the [waiver] provision, other legal consequences may ensue." Id., at 188. Yet, as in Overmyer, there is no need in the present cases to canvass those consequences fully. For a waiver of constitutional rights in any context must, at the very least, be clear. We need not concern ourselves with the involuntariness or unintelligence of a waiver when the contractual language relied upon does not, on its face, even amount to a waiver.


      [59]        The conditional sales contracts here simply provided that upon a default the seller "may take back," "may retake" or "may repossess" merchandise. The contracts included nothing about the waiver of a prior hearing. They did not indicate how or through what process -- a final judgment, self-help, prejudgment replevin with a prior hearing, or prejudgment replevin without a prior hearing -- the seller could take back the goods. Rather, the purported waiver provisions here are no more than a statement of the seller's right to repossession upon occurrence of certain events. The appellees do not suggest that these provisions waived the appellants' right to a full post-seizure hearing to determine whether those events had, in fact, occurred and to consider any other available defenses. By the same token, the language of the purported waiver provisions did not waive the appellants' constitutional right to a preseizure hearing of some kind. Fuentes v. Shevin, 1972.SCT.42152 <http://www.versuslaw.com>ΒΆ 56-59; 407 U.S. 67, 80 (1972).


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