John Haddock v. Harriet Haddock

Decision Date16 April 1906
Docket NumberNo. 119,119
Citation26 S.Ct. 525,201 U.S. 562,5 Ann.Cas. 1,50 L.Ed. 867
PartiesJOHN W. HADDOCK, Piff. in Err. , v. HARRIET HADDOCK
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

[Syllabus from pages 562-564 intentionally omitted] Messrs. Abram J. Rose, William H. Willits, and Alfred C. Pette for plaintiff in error.

Messrs. Henry Willis Smith, William T. Tomlinson, and William W. Smith for defendant in error.

Mr. Justice White delivered the opinion of the court:

The plaintiff in error will be called the husband and the defendant in error the wife.

The wife, a resident of the state of New York, sued the husband in that state in 1899, and there obtained personal service upon him. The complaint charged that the parties had been married in New York in 1868, where they both resided and where the wife continued to reside, and it was averred that the husband, immediately following the marriage, abandoned the wife, and thereafter failed to support her, and that he was the owner of property. A decree of separation from bed and board and for alimony was prayed. The answer admitted the marriage, but averred that its celebration was procured by the fraud of the wife, and that immediately after the marriage the parties had separated by mutual consent. It was also alleged that during the long period between the celebration and the bringing of this action the wife had in no manner asserted her rights, and was barred by her laches from doing so. Besides, the answer alleged that the husband had, in 1881 obtained in a court of the state of Connecticut a divorce which was conclusive. At the trial before a referee the judgment roll in the suit for divorce in Connecticut was offered by the husband and was objected to, first, because the Connecticut court had not obtained jurisdiction over the person of the defendant wife, as the notice of the pendency of the petition was by publication and she had not appeared in the action; and, second, because the ground upon which the divorce was granted, viz., desertion by the wife, was false. The referee sustained the objections and an exception was noted. The judgment roll in question was then marked for identification and forms a part of the record before us.

Having thus excluded the proceedings in the Connecticut court, the referee found that the parties were married in New York in 1868, that the wife was a resident of the state of New York, that after the marriage the parties never lived together, and shortly thereafter that the husband, without justifiable cause, abandoned the wife, and has since neglected to provide for her. The legal conclusion was that the wife was entitled to a separation from bed and board and alimony in the sum of $780 a year from the date of the judgment. The action of the referee was sustained by the supreme court of the state of New York, and a judgment for separation and alimony was entered in favor of the wife. This judgment was affirmed by the court of appeals. As, by the law of the state of New York, after the affirmance by the court of appeals the record was remitted to the supreme court, this writ of error to that court was prosecuted.

The Federal question is, Did the court below violate the Constitution of the United States by refusing to give to the decree of divorce rendered in the state of Connecticut the faith and credit to which it was entitled?

As the averments concerning the alleged fraud in contracting the marriage and the subsequent laches of the wife are solely matters of state cognizance, we may not allow them to even indirectly influence our judgment upon the Federal question to which we are confined, and we, therefore, put these subjects entirely out of view. Moreover, as, for the purpose of the Federal issue, we are concerned not with the mere form of proceeding by which the Federal rights, if any, was denied, but alone have power to decide whether such right was denied, we do not inquire whether the New York court should preferably have admitted the record of the Connecticut divorce suit, and, after so admitting it, determined what effect it would give to it, instead of excluding the record, and thus refusing to give effect to the judgment. In order to decide whether the refusal of the court to admit in evidence the Connecticut decree denied to that decree the efficacy to which it was entitled under the full faith and credit clause, we must first examine the judgment roll of the Connecticut cause in order to fix the precise circumstances under which the decree in that cause was rendered.

Without going into detail, it suffices to say that on the face of the Connecticut record it appeared that the husband, alleging that he had acquired a domicil in Connecticut, sued the wife in that state as a person whose residence was unknown, but whose last known place of residence was in the state of New York, at a place stated, and charged desertion by the wife and fraud on her part in procuring the marriage; and, further, it is shown that no service was made upon the wife except by publication and by mailing a copy of the petition to her at her last known place of residence in the state of New York.

With the object of confining our attention to the real question arising from this condition of the Connecticut record, we state at the outset certain legal propositions irrevocably concluded by previous decisions of this court, and which are re- quired to be borne in mind in analyzing the ultimate issue to be decided.

First. The requirement of the Constitution is not that some, but that full, faith and credit shall be given by states to the judicial decrees of other states. That is to say, where a decree rendered in one state is embraced by the full faith and credit clause, that constitutional provision commands that the other states shall give to the decree the force and effect to which it was entitled in the state where rendered. Harding v. Harding, 198 U. S. 317, 49 L. ed. 1066, 25 Sup. Ct. Rep. 679.

Second. Where a personal judgment has been rendered in the courts of a state against a nonresident merely upon constructive service, and, therefore, without acquiring jurisdiction over the person of the defendant, such judgment may not be enforced in another state in virtue of the full faith and credit clause. Indeed, a personal judgment so rendered is, by operation of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, void as against the nonresident, even in the state where rendered; and, therefore, such nonresident, in virtue of rights granted by the Constitution of the United States, may successfully resist, even in the state where rendered, the enforcement of such a judgment. Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U. S. 714, 24 L. ed. 565. The facts in that case were these: Neff, who was a resident of a state other than Oregon, owned a tract of land in Oregon. Mitchell, resident of Oregon, brought a suit in a court of that state upon a money demand against Neff. The Oregon statutes required, in the case of personal action against a nonresident, a publication of notice, calling upon the defendant to appear and defend, and also required the mailing to such defendant at his last known place of residence of a copy of the summons and complaint. Upon affidavit of the absence of Neff, and that he resided in the state of California, the exact place being unknown, the publication required by the statute was ordered and made, and judgment by default was entered against Neff. Upon this judgment execution was issued and real estate of Neff was sold and was ultimately acquired by Pennoyer. Neff sued in the circuit court of the United States for the district of Oregon to recover the property, and the question presented was the validity in Oregon of the judgment there rendered against Neff. After the most elaborate consideration it was expressly decided that the judgment rendered in Oregon, under the circumstances stated was void for want of jurisdiction and was repugnant to the due process clause of the Constitution of the United States. The ruling was based on the proposition that a court of one state could not acquire jurisdiction to render personal judgment against a nonresident who did not appear by the mere publication of a summons, and that the want of power to acquire such jurisdiction by publication could not be aided by the fact that under the statutes of the state in which the suit against the nonresident was brought, the sending of a copy of the summons and complaint to the postoffice address in another state of the defendant was required and complied with. The court said (p. 727, L. ed. p. 570):

'Process from the tribunals of one state cannot run into another state, and summon parties there domiciled to leave its territory and respond to proceedings against them. Publication of process or notice within the state where the tribunal sits cannot create any greater obligation upon the nonresident to appear. Process sent to him out of the state and process published within it are equally unavailing in proceedings to establish his personal liability.'

And the doctrine thus stated but expressed a general principle expounded in previous decisions. Bischoff v. Wethered, 9 Wall. 812, 19 L. ed. 829. In that case, speaking of a money judgment recovered in the common pleas of Westminster hall, England, upon personal notice served in the city of Baltimore, Mr. Justice Bradley, J., speaking for the court, said (p. 814, L. ed. p. 830):

'It is enough to say [of this proceeding] that it was wholly without jurisdiction of the person, and whatever validity it may have in England, by virtue of statute law, against property of the defendant there situate, it can have no validity here, even of a prima facie character. It is simply null.'

Third. The principles, however, stated in the previous proposition, are controlling only as to judgments in personam, and do not relate to proceedings in rem. That is to say, in consequence of the authority which government possesses over things within its borders, there is...

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