311 U.S. 457 (1940), 66, Milliken v. Meyer

Docket Nº:No. 66
Citation:311 U.S. 457, 61 S.Ct. 339, 85 L.Ed. 278
Party Name:Milliken v. Meyer
Case Date:December 23, 1940
Court:United States Supreme Court

Page 457

311 U.S. 457 (1940)

61 S.Ct. 339, 85 L.Ed. 278




No. 66

United States Supreme Court

Dec. 23, 1940

Argued December 13, 1940



1. Where its judgment is challenged in another State, the jurisdiction of a state court over the parties or the subject matter is open to inquiry. P. 462.

2. If the judgment on its face appears to be a record of a court of general jurisdiction, then jurisdiction over the parties and the subject matter will be presumed, unless disproved by extrinsic evidence or by the record itself. P. 462.

3. Where a judgment of a state court having jurisdiction of the parties and the subject matter is challenged in another State, the full faith and credit clause of the Federal Constitution precludes any inquiry into the merits of the cause of action, the logic or consistency of the decision, or the validity of the legal principles on which the judgment is based. P. 462.

4. A judgment in personam rendered in the State of his domicile against a defendant who, pursuant to a statute of that State providing for

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the service of process on absent defendants, was personally served in another State, held valid and entitled to full faith and credit under the Federal Constitution. P. 463.

A court of another State cannot refuse to give full faith and credit to such judgment on the ground of an inconsistency between the judgment and the findings.

5. An incident of domicile is amenability to suit within the State even during sojourns without the State, where the State has provided a reasonable method for apprising the absent party of the proceedings against him. P. 464.

105 Colo. 532; 100 P.2d 151, reversed.

Certiorari, 310 U.S. 622, to review the affirmance of a judgment which denied full faith and credit to a foreign judgment.

DOUGLAS, J., lead opinion

MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

The Colorado Supreme Court held null and void a judgment of the Wyoming court against the claim of Milliken that that judgment was entitled to full faith and credit under the Federal Constitution. 101 Colo. 564, 76 P.2d 420; 105 Colo. 532, 100 P.2d 151. The case is here on a petition for certiorari which we granted, 310 U.S. 622, because of the substantial character of the federal question which is raised.

The controversy is over a 1/64th interest in profits from operation of certain Colorado oil properties. Transcontinental,1 on August 31, 1922, contracted to pay Meyer

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4/64ths of those profits. Milliken asserted a claim to a two-thirds interest in that 4/64ths share. As a settlement of that dispute, Transcontinental, on May 3, 1924, contracted to pay Milliken a 2/64ths interest and Milliken assigned2 to Transcontinental all his claims against Meyer pertaining [61 S.Ct. 341] to the lands in question and to Meyer's 4/64ths interest in the profits.

Later, Milliken instituted suit in the Wyoming court alleging a joint adventure with Transcontinental and Meyer and charging a conspiracy on their part to defraud him of his rights. He sought a cancellation of the contracts of May 3, 1924, and an accounting from Transcontinental and Meyer. Meyer, who was asserted to be a resident of Wyoming, was personally served with process in Colorado pursuant to the Wyoming statutes,3 but he made no appearance in the Wyoming cause.4 Transcontinental appeared and answered. The court found that there was no joint venture between Milliken and

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Transcontinental; that the contracts of May 3, 1924, were valid, and that the action against Transcontinental should be dismissed with prejudice. It found, however, that there was a joint venture between Milliken and Meyer; that they were entitled to share equally in 6/64ths of the net profits, and that, while Meyer had regularly received 4/64ths, he had refused to account to Milliken for his 1/64th part. The court did not purport to decree the 1/64th interest to Milliken or anyone else, but entered an in personam judgment against Meyer for the profits which Meyer had withheld from Milliken, together with interest thereon, and enjoined Transcontinental from paying, and Meyer from receiving, more than 3/64ths of the net profits. This was on July 11, 1931. Thereafter, the 1/64th share was withheld from Meyer and paid over to Milliken.5 In 1935, respondent instituted this suit6 in the Colorado court praying, inter alia, for a judgment against Milliken for the sums withheld under the Wyoming judgment and paid to Milliken, for an injunction against Milliken attempting to enforce the Wyoming judgment, and for a decree that the Wyoming judgment was a nullity for want of jurisdiction over Meyer or his property. The bill alleged, inter alia, that Meyer, at the time of service in the Wyoming court, had long ceased to be a resident of Wyoming, and was a resident of Colorado; that the service obtained on him did

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not give the Wyoming court jurisdiction of his person or property, and that such judgment was violative of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Milliken's answer alleged, inter alia, that Meyer was a resident of Wyoming at the time of the Wyoming action, and that the Wyoming judgment was entitled to full faith and credit in Colorado under the Federal Constitution. Article 4, § 1. The Colorado court, on issues joined, found that Meyer was domiciled in Wyoming when the Wyoming suit was commenced, that the Wyoming statutes for substituted service were constitutional, that [61 S.Ct. 342] the affidavit for constructive service7 on Meyer was filed in good faith, substantially conformed to the Wyoming statute and stated the truth, that Wyoming had jurisdiction over the person of Meyer, that the Wyoming decree8 was not void, and that the bill should be dismissed.

That judgment was reversed by the Supreme Court of Colorado. It did not pass on the question of whether or not the Wyoming court had jurisdiction of the parties and subject matter. It held that the Wyoming decree was void on its face because of an irreconcilable contradiction between the findings and the decree. In its view, the finding of the Wyoming court that Milliken's...

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