Connecticut v. Doehr

501 U.S. 1, 111 S. Ct. 2105 (1991)



For a prejudgment attachment of property the relevant inquiry requires first, consideration of the private interest that will be affected by the prejudgment measure; second, an examination of the risk of erroneous deprivation through the procedures under attack and the probable value of additional or alternative safeguards; and third, principal attention to the interest of the party seeking the prejudgment remedy, with, nonetheless, due regard for any ancillary interest the government may have in providing the procedure or forgoing the added burden of providing greater protections.


A Connecticut statute authorizes a judge to allow the prejudgment attachment of real estate without prior notice or hearing upon the plaintiff's verification that there is probable cause to sustain the validity of his or her claim. Petitioner applied to the State Superior Court for such an attachment on respondent's home in conjunction with a civil action for assault and battery that he was seeking to institute against respondent in the same court. The application was supported by an affidavit in which petitioner, in five one-sentence paragraphs, stated that the facts set forth in his previously submitted complaint were true; declared that the assault by respondent resulted in particular injuries requiring expenditures for medical care;  and stated his "opinion" that the foregoing facts were sufficient to establish probable cause. On the strength of these submissions, the judge found probable cause and ordered the attachment. Only after the sheriff attached the property did respondent receive notice of the attachment, which informed him of his right to a postattachment hearing. Rather than pursue this option, respondent filed a suit claiming that the statute violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. That court upheld the statute, but the Court of Appeals reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed.


Does the Connecticut statute violate the Due Process clause of the Constitution?




The U.S. Supreme Court held that even the temporary or partial impairments to property rights that attachments and similar encumbrances entail were sufficient to merit due process protection and that any significant taking of property by the state was within the purview of the due process clause. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 52-278e(a)(1), which allowed for an attachment without notice or a hearing, was therefore in violation of the due process clause. Therefore, since the attachment of respondent's property was a one-sided determination which did not afford him notice or an opportunity to dispute, the Court remanded the case for further proceedings.

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