Mitchell v. W. T. Grant Co

416 U.S. 600, 94 S. Ct. 1895 (1974)

 

RULE:

A writ of sequestration is obtainable on a creditor's ex parte application without notice to the debtor or opportunity for a hearing, but La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 3571 entitles the debtor immediately to seek dissolution of the writ, which must be ordered unless the creditor proves the grounds upon which the writ was issued, existence of the debt, lien, and delinquency, failing which the court may order return of the property and assess damages in favor of the debtor, including attorney fees.

FACTS:

A state trial judge ordered the sequestration of personal property on the application of the seller, who had made an installment sale of the goods to the buyer. According to the court, the statute authorizing sequestration in this case sought to minimize the risk of error of a wrongful interim possession by the seller. The system, which was always under judicial control, protected the buyer's interest in every conceivable way, except allowing him to have the property to start with. Accordingly, the court held that the sequestration did not violate the buyer's constitutional rights.

ISSUE:

Did the sequestration in this case violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it was ordered ex parte, without prior notice or opportunity for a hearing?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

The Louisiana sequestration procedure is not invalid, either on its face or as applied, and, considering the procedure as a whole, it effects a constitutional accommodation of the respective interests of the buyer and seller by providing for judicial control of the process from beginning to end, thus minimizing the risk of the creditor's wrongful interim possession, by protecting the debtor's interest in every way except to allow him initial possession, and by putting the property in the possession of the party who is able to furnish protection against loss or damage pending trial on the merits.

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