Mitchell v. W. T. Grant Co.
416 U.S. 600 (1974)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Mitchell v. W. T. Grant Co., 416 U.S. 600 (1974)

Mitchell v. W. T. Grant Co.

No. 72-6160

Argued December 4, 1973

Decided May 13, 1974

416 U.S. 600

Syllabus

The Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure makes available to a mortgage or lien holder a writ of sequestration to forestall waste or alienation of the encumbered property. While the writ is obtainable on the creditor's ex parte application without notice to the debtor or an opportunity for hearing, the writ will issue only upon a verified affidavit and upon a judge's authority (with respect to the parish involved in this case) after the creditor has filed a sufficient bond. The debtor may immediately seek dissolution of the writ, which must be ordered unless the creditor proves the grounds for issuance (existence of the debt, lien, and delinquency), failing which the court may order return of the property and assess damages, including attorney's fees, in the debtor's favor. Respondent seller filed suit against petitioner in the New Orleans City Court for the overdue balance of the price of certain personal property that petitioner had purchased under an installment sales contract and on which respondent had a vendor's lien. On respondent's application, the trial judge in accordance with the Louisiana procedure ordered sequestration of the property without prior notice or opportunity for a hearing, and denied petitioner's motion to dissolve the writ on the asserted ground, inter alia, that the seizure violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The appellate courts affirmed.

Held: 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. Fuentes v. Shevin,407 U. S. 67, distinguished. Pp. 416 U. S. 603-620.

263 La. 627, 269 So.2d 186, affirmed.

Page 416 U. S. 601

WHITE, J.J delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and BLACKMUN, POWELL, and REHNQUIST, JJ., joined. POWELL, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 416 U. S. 623. BRENNAN, J., filed a dissenting statement, post, p. 416 U. S. 636. STEWART, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which DOUGLAS and MARSHALL, JJ., joined, and in which BRENNAN, J., joined in part, post, p. 416 U. S. 629.

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