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Supreme Court Of Mississippi Finds That Its State Board Of Contractors Violated Procedural Due Process

In Mississippi State Board of Contractors v. Hobbs Construction, LLC, the Supreme Court of Mississippi analyzed whether the Mississippi State Board of Contractors (“the Board”) deprived Hobbs Construction, LLC (“Hobbs”) of its procedural right to due process. 2020 WL 1081410 (Miss. 2020).

The Board filed suit against Hobbs in December 2016 when Pyramid Interiors Distributors (“Pyramid”), a supplier, complained to the Board that Hobbs owed it money for materials. A hearing was ordered by the Board, but before it occurred, Hobbs and Pyramid agreed to attempt to resolve the dispute. The issues between Pyramid and Hobbs were not resolved, and the Board filed an amended complaint against Hobbs warning it that the Board could suspend or revoke its certificate of responsibility. The Board eventually held a hearing, at which neither Hobbs nor Pyramid was present. The Board considered past complaints filed against Hobbs, in addition to Pyramid’s complaint, and voted to revoke Hobbs’ certificate of responsibility.

Hobbs appealed the revocation to the Chancery Court, which found that the Board failed to afford Hobbs due process because the Board relied on prior complaints filed against Hobbs, separate from Pyramid’s complaints. The Board appealed to the Supreme Court of Mississippi.

It is well-settled law that the holder of a license issued by the government that entitles the holder to perform specific kinds of work to earn a living has a protected property interest in the license and must be afforded due process before being deprived of that license. Under the Mississippi Code, the Board may revoke a certificate of responsibility after affording the contractor ten days’ notice of a hearing at which the contractor shall have an opportunity to present all lawful evidence which he may offer. Miss. Code Ann. § 31-1-13. The Supreme Court of Mississippi has recognized the constitutional due process requirement that a license holder be given notice of the specific charges to be used as the basis for revoking the license.

The Board’s amended complaint gave no indication that any prior complaints against Hobbs would be considered. The amended complaint only set forth the charge relating to Pyramid and Pyramid alone. The Supreme Court affirmed the Chancery Court’s holding, stating that nothing on the Board’s notice reasonably should have prompted Hobbs to request that the charge be made more definite and certain. The Board’s notice likewise did not afford Hobbs a full opportunity to know the charges against it and to present a responsive defense. Therefore, the Board violated Hobbs’ right to procedural due process by revoking its license on grounds other than those for which it was provided notice in advance of the hearing.