Jackson v. Metropolitan Edison Co.
419 U.S. 345 (1974)

  • Jackson didn’t pay her electric bill. The electric company (Metropolitan Edison) turned off her power.
  • Jackson sued, claiming a denial of due process.
    • Jackson claimed that the delinquency was in error, and the 14th Amendment said that she could not be deprived of utility service without adequate notice and a hearing before an impartial body.
      • Basically, Jackson was claiming that utilities were a governmental function performed by a private entity, and thus subject to constitutional protections.
    • Metropolitan Edison claimed that they were a private entity and were not subject to the due process requirements of the 14th Amendment based on the State Action Doctrine.
  • The US Supreme Court found that the 14th Amendment’s due process requirement did not apply to private entities.
    • Jackson unsuccessfully argued that the partial monopoly granted by Pennsylvania, the extensive state regulation, and the essential nature of utility operations as evidence of the State character of the utility’s actions.
    • However, the US Supreme Court found that Pennsylvania was not sufficiently connected with Metropolitan Edison’s action in terminating Jackson’s service so as to make respondent’s conduct in so doing attributable to the State for purposes of the 14th Amendment.
  • This case shows the limits of the Public Function Exception to the State Action Doctrine.
    • The Public Function Exception says that when a private entity is engaged in activity that has been traditionally, exclusively done by the government, then they are bound by the Constitution, even though the State Action Doctrine generally limits the reach of the Constitution to actions taken by governmental agencies.
      • In this case the Court found that even though utilities are monopolies created in the public interest, their activity is not ‘governmental’ enough to meet the Public Function Exception.