303 U.S. 59 (1938), 197, Adam v. Saenger

Docket Nº:No.197
Citation:303 U.S. 59, 58 S.Ct. 454, 82 L.Ed. 649
Party Name:Adam v. Saenger
Case Date:January 31, 1938
Court:United States Supreme Court

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303 U.S. 59 (1938)

58 S.Ct. 454, 82 L.Ed. 649





United States Supreme Court

Jan. 31, 1938

Argued January 6, 1938




1. Matter of fact or of law upon which the jurisdiction of a state court to render a judgment depended, but which was not litigated in that court, is matter for adjudication by the court of another State in an action on the judgment. P. 62.

2. Upon an appeal from the judgment of a state court in a suit upon a judgment of another State, this Court takes judicial notice of the law of the latter State to the same extent as such notice is taken by the court appealed from. P. 63.

3. According to Texas law, the legal effect of a judgment of another State on which suit is brought is to be determined by the court, not the jury. But a suitor who asserts that the effect is different from that of a similar judgment of the courts of Texas is required to allege specifically and prove as a matter of fact the particular law or usage on which he relies to establish the difference, and, on demurrer, only the law or usage specifically alleged will be considered in determining whether the law of the other State differs from that of Texas. P. 63.

4. A, being sued by B, a resident of Texas, in a court of general jurisdiction in California, brought a cross-action in the same court against B with leave of court and by service in California of a cross-complaint upon B's attorney of record in the original action. A obtained judgment against B by default, and sued upon it in Texas, pleading relevant California statutes and citations of decisions of California courts. The question, raised by general demurrer to A's complaint, was the legal effect in California of the service in the cross-action, and hence of the judgment founded upon it.


That this question, whether regarded as of fact or of law, is a federal question arising under the Full Faith and Credit Clause and R.S. § 905, 28 U.S.C. 687, and its decision by the Texas court is reviewable here. P. 64.

5. Under §§ 442, 1015 and 1011 of the California Code of Civil Procedure, and decisions of the California courts, as pleaded in this case, valid service of a cross-complaint may be made upon the attorney of the plaintiff in the original action. P. 65.

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The cross-complaint was for conversion of chattels, filed, with the permission of the court, in an action for goods sold and delivered.

6. There is nothing in the Fourteenth Amendment to prevent a State from adopting a procedure by which a judgment in personam may be rendered in a cross-action against a plaintiff in its courts, upon service of process or of appropriate pleading upon his attorney of record. P. 67.

101 S.W.2d 1046, reversed.

Certiorari, 302 U.S. 668, to review the affirmance of a judgment dismissing a suit brought in Texas by the assignee of a judgment recovered, on cross-complaint, in California against a Texas corporation. The Texas suit was against the directors of the corporation, as trustees in dissolution, and against the stockholders, as transferees of corporate assets. The Supreme Court of Texas having refused a writ of error for want of jurisdiction, the writ of this Court ran to the Court of Civil Appeals.

STONE, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question for decision is whether the action, in this case, of the Texas state courts, in dismissing a suit founded upon a judgment of the Supreme Court of California, denied to the judgment the faith and credit which the Constitution commands.

Petitioner, as assignee of a California judgment against the Beaumont Export & Import Company, a Texas corporation, brought the present suit in the Texas state district court against respondents, directors of the corporation acting as its trustees in dissolution, and against its stockholders as transferees of corporate assets, to collect the judgment. His petition sets out in detail the circumstances attending the rendition of the California judgment

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and incorporates by reference a duly attested copy of the judgment roll.

It appears that the corporation brought suit in the superior court of California, a court of general jurisdiction, against Montes, petitioner's predecessor in interest, to recover a money judgment for goods sold and delivered. Thereupon Montes, following what is alleged to be the California practice, with leave of the court, brought a cross-action against the corporation, by service of a cross-complaint upon the corporation's attorney of record in the pending suit, to recover for the conversion of chattels. Judgment in the cross-action, taken by default, was followed by dismissal of the corporation's suit, and is the judgment which is the subject of the present suit. A motion to open the default and to be allowed to defend, made later on behalf of the corporation, was contested and was denied by the court, the issue being whether the cross-complaint was in fact served on the plaintiff's attorney.

The trial court sustained a general demurrer to the complaint and gave judgment dismissing the cause, which the Texas Court of Civil Appeals affirmed, 101 S.W.2d 1046. Petition to the Texas Supreme Court for a writ of error was denied for want of jurisdiction. We granted certiorari, cf. Bain Peanut Co. v. Pinson, 282 U.S. 499, the question being an important one of constitutional law. Our writ is properly directed to the Texas Court of Civil Appeals, it being the highest court of the state in which a judgment could be had. Bacon v. Texas, 163 U.S. 207, 215; Sullivan v. Texas, 207 U.S. 416; San Antonio & A.P. Ry. Co. v. Wagner, 241 U.S. 476; American Railway Express Co. v. Levee, 263 U.S. 19.

The Texas Court of Civil Appeals rested its decision on a single ground, want of jurisdiction of the California court over the corporation in the cross-action in which the judgment was rendered. Construing the California statutes

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and decisions which the complaint set out, it concluded that they did not authorize service of the complaint in the cross-action upon the plaintiff's attorney of record. It held further that, in any case, as the corporation was not present within the state, no jurisdiction could be acquired over it by the substituted service, and the California judgment was consequently without due process and a nullity beyond the protection of the full faith and credit clause. To review these rulings, we brought the case here. Cf. Ward v. Love County, 253 U.S. 17, 25; Indiana ex rel. Anderson v. Brand, post, p. 95.

By R.S. § 905, 28 U.S.C. § 687, enacted under authority of the full faith and credit clause, article 4, § 1, of the Constitution, the duly attested record of the judgment of a state is entitled to such faith and credit in every court within the United States as it has by law or usage in the state from which it is taken. If it appears on its face to be a record of a court of general jurisdiction, such jurisdiction over the cause and the parties is to be presumed unless disproved by extrinsic evidence, or by the record itself. Hanley v. Donoghue, 116 U.S. 1; Knowles v. Logansport Gaslight & Coke Co., 19 Wall. 58; Settlemier v. Sullivan, 97 U.S. 444. But, in a suit upon the judgment of another state, the jurisdiction of the court which rendered it is open to judicial inquiry, Chicago Life Insurance Co. v. Cherry, 244 U.S. 25, and when the...

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