243 U.S. 269 (1917), 147, Pennington v. Fourth National Bank

Docket Nº:No. 147
Citation:243 U.S. 269, 37 S.Ct. 282, 61 L.Ed. 713
Party Name:Pennington v. Fourth National Bank
Case Date:March 06, 1917
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 269

243 U.S. 269 (1917)

37 S.Ct. 282, 61 L.Ed. 713



Fourth National Bank

No. 147

United States Supreme Court

March 6, 1917

Argued January 26, 1917




The power of the states to seize tangible and intangible property and apply it to satisfy the obligations of absent owners is not obstructed by the federal Constitution.

The power is the same whether the obligation sought to be enforced be admitted or contested, liquidated or unliquidated, inchoate or mature.

The only essentials to its exercise are the presence of the res, its seizure at the commencement of proceedings, and the opportunity of the owner to be heard.

Where these essentials exist, a decree for alimony will be valid under the same circumstances and to the same extent as a judgment on a debt, i.e., valid as a charge upon the property seized. So held where the property was the divorced husband's bank account.

Property not subject to attachment at law may be reached in equity; an injunction entered at the commencement of proceedings for divorce and alimony may operate as a seizure, in the nature of a garnishment, of defendant's account in bank.

92 Ohio St. 517 affirmed.

Page 270

The case is stated in the opinion.

BRANDEIS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE BRANDEIS delivered the opinion of the Court.

Mrs. Pennington obtained in a state court of Ohio a decree of divorce which is admitted to be valid. In the same proceeding, she sought alimony, and in order to insure its payment joined as a defendant the Fourth National Bank of Cincinnati, in which her husband had a deposit account. When the suit was filed, the court entered a preliminary order enjoining the bank from paying out any part of the deposit. Under later orders of the court, the bank made payments from it to the wife. Finally it was perpetually enjoined from making any payment to the husband, and ordered to pay the balance to the wife, which it did. The husband then presented to the bank a check for the full amount of the deposit, asserting that the court's orders deprived him of his property without due process of law, in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment, and were void; since he was a nonresident of Ohio, had not been personally served with process within the state, had not voluntarily appeared in the suit, and had been served by publication only, all of which the bank knew. Payment of the check was refused. Thereupon Pennington brought, in another state court of Ohio, an independent action against the bank for the amount. Judgment being rendered for the bank, he took the case by writ of error to the Court of Appeals for Hamilton County, and from there to the Supreme Court of Ohio. Both these courts affirmed the judgment below. Then the case was

Page 271

brought to this Court for review, Pennington still claiming that his constitutional rights had been violated.

The Fourteenth Amendment did not, in guarantying due process of law, abridge the jurisdiction which a state possessed over property within its borders, regardless of the residence or presence of the owner. That jurisdiction extends alike to tangible and to intangible property. Indebtedness due from a resident to a nonresident -- of which bank deposits are an example -- is property within the state....

To continue reading