Sturm sued the railway company in a justices' court in Kansas
for wages due, and recovered for the full amount claimed. The
company appealed to the county district court. When the case was
called there for trial, the company moved for a continuance on the
ground that a creditor of Sturm had sued him in a court in Iowa, of
which state the railway company was also a corporation, and had
garnisheed the company there for the wages sought to be recovered
in this suit, and had recovered a judgment there from which an
appeal had been taken which was still pending. The motion for
continuance was denied, the case proceeded to trial, and judgment
was rendered for Sturm for the amount sued for, with costs. A new
trial was moved for on the ground, among others, that the decision
was contrary to and in conflict with Section 1, Article IV, of the
Constitution of the United States. The motion was denied, and the
judgment was sustained by the court of appeals and by the supreme
court of the state. The case was then brought here. Held
that the Iowa court had jurisdiction, and that the Kansas courts
did not give to the proceedings in Iowa the faith and credit they
had in Iowa, and were consequently entitled to in Kansas, and the
judgment must be reversed.
The defendant in error brought an action against the
Page 174 U. S. 711
in error in Justice's Court of Belleville, Republic County,
Kansas, for the sum of $140, for wages due. Judgment was rendered
for him in the sum of $140 and interest and costs.
The plaintiff in error appealed from the judgment to the
district court of the county, to which court all the papers were
transmitted and the case docketed for trial.
On the 10th of October, 1894, the case was called for trial,
when plaintiff in error filed a motion for continuance, supported
by an affidavit affirming that on the 13th day of December, 1893,
in the County of Pottawattamie and State of Iowa, one A. H. Willard
commenced an action against E. H. Sturm, in Justice's Court, before
Oride Vien, a justice of the peace for said county, to recover the
sum of $78.63, with interest at the rate of ten percent per annum,
and at the same time sued out a writ of attachment and garnishment
and duly garnished the plaintiff in error, and at that time
plaintiff in error was indebted to defendant in error in the sum of
$77.17 for wages, being the same wages sought to be recovered in
That plaintiff in error filed its answer, admitting such
That at the time of the commencement of said action in
Pottawattamie County, the defendant was a nonresident of the State
of Iowa, and that service upon him was duly made by publication,
and that afterwards judgment was rendered against him and plaintiff
in error, as garnishee, for the sum of $76.16, and costs of suit,
amounting to $19, and from such judgment appealed to the district
court of said county, where, said action was then pending,
That the moneys sought to be recovered in this action are the
same moneys sought to be recovered in the garnishment proceedings,
and that, under the laws of Iowa, its courts had jurisdiction
thereof, and that the said moneys were not at the time of the
garnishment, exempt from attachment, execution, or garnishment.
That the justice of the peace at all of the times of the
proceedings was a duly qualified and acting justice, and that all
the proceedings were commenced prior to the commencement of the
present action. And that, if the case
Page 174 U. S. 712
be continued until the next term of the court, the action in
Iowa will be determined and the rights of plaintiff in error
The motion was denied, and the plaintiff in error pleaded in
answer the same matters alleged in the affidavit for continuance,
and attached to the answer a certified copy of the proceedings in
the Iowa courts. It also alleged that it was a corporation duly
organized under the laws of the States of Illinois and Iowa, doing
business in the State of Kansas.
The defendant in error replied to the answer and alleged that
the amount due from plaintiff in error was for wages due for
services rendered within three months next prior to the
commencement of the action; that he was a resident, head of a
family, and that the wages were exempt under the laws of Kansas,
and not subject to garnishment proceedings; that plaintiff in error
knew these facts, and that the Iowa court had no jurisdiction of
his property or person.
Evidence was introduced in support of the issues, including
certain sections of the laws of Iowa relating to service by
publication and to attachment and garnishment, and judgment was
rendered for the defendant in error in the amount sued for.
A new trial was moved on the ground, among others, that the
"decision is contrary to, and in conflict with, Section 1 of
Article IV of the Constitution of the United States."
The motion was denied.
On error to the court of appeals, and from thence to the supreme
court, the judgment was affirmed, and the case was then brought
The defendant in error was notified of the suit against him in
Iowa and of the proceedings in garnishment in time to have
protected his rights.
The errors assigned present in various ways the contention that
the Supreme Court of Kansas refused to give full faith and credit
to the records and judicial proceedings of the courts of the State
of Iowa, in violation of Section 1 of Article IV of the
Constitution of the United States and of the act of congress
"An act to prescribe the mode in which the public acts, records
and judicial proceedings in each state
Page 174 U. S. 713
shall be authenticated so as to take effect in every other
approved May 26, 1890.
MR. JUSTICE McKENNA, after stating the facts in the foregoing
language, delivered the opinion of the Court.
How proceedings in garnishment may be availed of in defense --
whether, in abatement or bar of the suit on the debt attached, or
for a continuance of it or suspension of execution -- the practice
of the states of the Union is not uniform. But it is obvious and
necessary justice that such proceedings should be allowed as a
defense in some way.
In the pending suit, plaintiff in error moved for a continuance,
and, not securing it, pleaded the proceedings in garnishment in
answer. Judgment, however, was rendered against it and sustained by
the supreme court on the authority of Railway Co. v.
43 Kan. 375, and "for the reasons stated by Mr.
Justice Valentine in that case."
The facts of that case were as follows: the Missouri Pacific
Railway Company was indebted to Sharitt for services performed in
Kansas. Sharitt was indebted to one J. P. Stewart, a resident of
Missouri. Stewart sued him in Missouri, and attached his wages in
the hands of the railway company, and the latter answered in the
suit in accordance with the order of garnishment on the 28th of
July, 1887, admitting indebtedness, and on the 29th of September
was ordered to pay its amount into court. On the 27th of July,
Sharitt brought an action in Kansas against the railway company to
recover for his services, and the company, in defense, pleaded the
garnishment and order of the Missouri court. The amount due
Sharitt, having been for wages, was exempt from attachment in
Kansas. It was held that the garnishment was not a defense. The
facts were similar therefore to those of the case at bar.
The ground of the opinion of Mr. Justice Valentine was
Page 174 U. S. 714
that the Missouri court had no jurisdiction, because the situs
of the debt was in Kansas. In order words, and to quote the
language of the learned justice,
"the situs of a debt is either with the owner thereof, or at his
domicile, or where the debt is to be paid, and it cannot be
subjected to a proceeding in garnishment anywhere else. . . . It is
not the debtor who can carry or transfer or transport the property
in a debt from one state or jurisdiction into another. The situs of
the property in a debt can be changed only by the change of
location of the creditor who is the owner thereof, or with his
The primary proposition is that the situs of a debt is at the
domicile of a creditor, or, to state it negatively, it is not at
the domicile of the debtor.
The proposition is supported by some cases. It is opposed by
others. Its error proceeds, as we conceive, from confounding debt
and credit, rights and remedies. The right of a creditor and the
obligation of a debtor are correlative, but different, things, and
the law, in adapting its remedies for or against either, must
regard that difference. Of this there are many illustrations, and a
proper and accurate attention to it avoids misunderstanding. This
Court said, by MR. JUSTICE GRAY, in Wyman v. Halstead,
109 U. S.
"The general rule of law is well settled that, for the purpose
of founding administration, all simple contract debts are assets at
the domicile of the debtor."
And this is not because of defective title in the creditor or in
his administrator, but a because the policy of the state of the
debtor requires it to protect home creditors. Wilkins v.
9 Wall. 740; 108 U. S. 108
256. Debts cannot be assets at the domicile of the debtor if their
locality is fixed at the domicile of the creditor, and if the
policy of the state of the debtor can protect home creditors
through administration proceedings, the same policy can protect
home creditors through attachment proceedings.
For illustrations in matters of taxation, see Kirtland v.
Hotchkiss, 100 U. S. 491
Pullman Car. Co. v. Pennsylvania, 141 U. S.
; Savings & Loan Society v. Multnomah
County, 169 U. S. 421
Our attachment laws had their origin in the custom of
Page 174 U. S. 715
London. Drake, § 1. Under it, a debt was regarded as being where
the debtor was, and questions of jurisdiction were settled on that
regard. In Andrews v. Clerke,
1 Carth. 25, Lord Chief
Justice Holt summarily decided such a question, and stated the
practice under the custom of London. The report of the case is
brief, and is as follows:
"Andrews levied a plaint in the Sheriff's Courts in London, and,
upon the usual suggestion that one T. S. (the garnishee) was debtor
to the defendant, a foreign attachment was awarded to attach that
debt in the hands of T. S., which was accordingly done, and then a
was entered, which is in the nature of an
imparlance in that court."
"Afterwards T. S. (the garnishee) pleaded to the jurisdiction,
setting forth that the cause of debt due from him to the defendant
Sir Robert Clerke, and the contract on which it was founded, did
arise and was made at H., in the County of Middlesex, extra
and, this plea being overruled, it was
now moved (in behalf of T. S. the garnishee) for a prohibition to
the sheriff's court aforesaid, suggesting the said matter,
that the cause of action did arise extra
etc.; but the prohibition was denied because
the debt always follows the person of the debtor, and it is not
material where it was contracted, especially as to this purpose of
foreign attachments, for it was always the custom in London to
attach debts upon bills of exchange, and goldsmiths' notes, etc.,
if the goldsmith who gave note, or the person to whom the bill is
directed, liveth within the city, without any respect had to the
place where the debt was contracted."
The idea of locality of things which may be said to be
intangible is somewhat confusing, but, if it be kept up, the right
of the creditor and the obligation of the debtor cannot have the
same, unless debtor and creditor live in the same place. But we do
not think it is necessary to resort to the idea at all, or to give
it important distinction. The essential service of foreign
attachment laws is to reach and arrest the payment of what is due
and might be paid to a nonresident to the defeat of his creditors.
To do it, you must go to the
Page 174 U. S. 716
domicile of his debtor, and can only do it under the laws and
procedure in force there. This is a legal necessity, and
considerations of situs are somewhat artificial. If not artificial,
whatever of substance there is must be with the debtor. He, and he
only, has something in his hands. That something is the
and gives character to the action as one in the
nature of a proceeding in rem. Mooney v. Buford &
George Mfg. Co.,
72 F. 32; Conflict of Laws, § 549, and
To ignore this is to give immunity to debts owed to nonresident
creditors from attachment by their creditors, and to deny necessary
remedies. A debt may be as valuable as tangible things. It is not
capable of manual seizure, as they are, but no more than they can
it be appropriated by attachment without process, and the power to
execute the process. A notice to the debtor must be given, and can
only be given and enforced where he is. This, as we have already
said, is a necessity, and it cannot be evaded by the insistence
upon fictions or refinements about situs or the rights of the
creditor. Of course, the debt is the property of the creditor, and,
because it is, the law seeks to subject it, as it does other
property, to the payment of his creditors. If it can be done in any
other way than by process against, and jurisdiction of, his debtor,
that way does not occur to us.
Besides the proposition which we have discussed, there are
involved in the decision of the Sharitt
propositions that a debt may have a situs where it is payable, and
that it cannot be made migratory by the debtor. The latter was
probably expressed as a consequence of the primary proposition, and
does not require separate consideration. Besides, there is no fact
of change of domicile in the case. The plaintiff in error was not
temporarily in Iowa. It was an Iowa corporation and a resident of
the state, and was such at the time the debt sued on was
contracted, and we are not concerned to inquire whether the cases
which decide that a debtor temporarily in a state cannot be
garnished there are or are not justified by principle.
The proposition that the situs of a debt is where it is to be
paid is indefinite.
"All debts are payable everywhere, unless
Page 174 U. S. 717
there be some special limitation or provision in respect to the
payment, the rule being that debts, as such, have no locus or
situs, but accompany the creditor everywhere, and authorize a
demand upon the debtor everywhere."
2 Parsons on Contracts, 8th edition, 702. The debt involved in
the pending case had no "special limitation or provision in respect
to payment." It was payable generally, and could have been sued on
in Iowa, and therefore was attachable in Iowa. This is the
principle and effect of the best considered cases -- the inevitable
effect from the nature of transitory actions and the purpose of
foreign attachment laws, if we would enforce that purpose.
Embree v. Hanna,
5 Johns. 101; Hull v. Blake,
Mass. 153; Blake v. Williams,
6 Pick. 286; Harwell v.
85 Ga. 124; Harvey v. Great Northern Railway
50 Minn. 405; Mahany v. Kephart,
15 W.Va. 609;
Leiber v. Railroad Co.,
49 Ia. 688; National Fire Ins.
Co. v. Chambers,
53 N.J.Eq. 468; Holland v. Mobile &
84 Tenn. 414; Pomeroy v. Rand, McNally
157 Ill. 176; Berry Bros. v. Nelson, Davis
77 Tex. 191; Weyth Hardware Co. v. Lang,
127 Mo. 242; Howland v. Chicago, Rock Island &c.
134 Mo. 474.
Mr. Justice Valentine also expressed the view that
"if a debt is exempt from a judicial process in the state where
it is created, the exemption will follow the debt, as an incident
thereto, into any other state or jurisdiction into which the debt
may be supposed to be carried."
For this he cites some cases.
It is not clear whether the learned justice considered that the
doctrine affected the jurisdiction of the Iowa courts, or was but
an incident of the law of situs as expressed by him. If the latter,
it has been answered by what we have already said. If the former,
it cannot be sustained. It may have been error for the Iowa court
to have ruled against the doctrine, but the error did not destroy
jurisdiction. 134 Mo. 474.
But we do not assent to the proposition. Exemption laws are not
a part of the contract. They are part of the remedy, and subject to
the law of the forum. Freeman on Executions, sec. 209, and cases
cited; also, Mineral Point Railroad v.
Page 174 U. S. 718
83 Ill. 365; Carson v. Railway Co.,
Tenn. 646; Couley v. Chilcote,
25 Ohio St. 320;
Albrecht v. Treitschke,
17 Neb. 205; O'Connor v.
37 Neb. 267; Chicago, Burlington &c. Railroad
31 Neb. 629; Moore v. Chicago, Rock Island
43 Ia. 385; Broadstreet v. Clark,
65 Ia. 670; Stevens v. Brown,
20 W.Va. 450.
See also Bank of United States v.
8 Pet. 361; Wilcox v.
13 Pet. 378; Townsend
9 How. 407; Walworth v.
Harris, 129 U. S. 355
Penfield v. Chesapeake, Ohio &c. Railroad,
134 U. S. 351
the extent to which lex fori
Conflict of Laws, 571 et seq.
There are cases for and cases against the proposition that it is
the duty of a garnishee to notify the defendant, his creditor, of
the pendency of the proceedings, and also to make the defense of
exemption, or he will be precluded from claiming the proceedings in
defense of an action against himself. We need not comment on the
cases or reconcile them, as such notice was given, and the defense
was made. The plaintiff in error did all it could, and submitted
only to the demands of the law.
In Broadstreet v. Clark,
65 Ia. 670, the supreme court
of the state decided that exemption laws pertained to the remedy,
and were not a defense in that state. This ruling is repeated in
Willard v. Sturm,
96 Ia. 555, and applied to the
proceedings in garnishment now under review.
It follows from these views that the Iowa court had
jurisdiction, and that the Kansas courts did not give to the
proceedings in Iowa the faith and credit they had there, and were
hence entitled to in Kansas.
The judgment is reversed, and the case remanded for further
proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion.