These related cases involved a constitutional challenge to the Rhode Island Mechanics’ Lien Law (R.I. G.L. 1956 §§ 34-28-1 et seq.) The Rhode Island Superior Court held in both cases that the law violates due process because it encumbers private property without adequate procedural safeguards. Those decisions have been appealed to the Rhode Island Supreme Court.
These cases were brought to NELF’s attention by the Rhode Island Attorney General’s Office, which had already submitted an amicus brief supporting the Mechanics’ Lien statute against the constitutional challenge. NELF’s principal concern with the Superior Court’s decision was that it failed to recognize the long-standing purpose behind mechanics’ lien statutes, which is to ensure payment for the time, labor, and money that the contractor invests in the affected property. If the Superior Court’s decisions were upheld, they would deprive the owners of construction businesses in Rhode Island of a meaningful and effective remedy against delinquent customers, with adverse economic consequences on the construction industry of Rhode Island.
On December 3, 2004, NELF filed an amicus curiae brief with the Rhode Island Supreme Court in these cases which focused on showing that the Superior Court erred when it held that Connecticut v. Doehr, 501 U.S. 1 (1991), required a finding that the Rhode Island Mechanics’ Lien Law was unconstitutional. NELF argued that under Doehr, due process does not require a pre-deprivation hearing in every situation. Instead, Doehr holds that due process involves a more flexible balancing test that weights the particular vulnerability of the defendant against the plaintiff’s interest in the affected property.
On February 22, 2005, the Rhode Island Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Mechanics Lien law, as amended after the trial court’s judgment, did not violate procedural due process.