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City of Philadelphia v. Stadler

December 11, 1978

CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
HENRY H. STADLER, DEFENDANT. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, PLAINTIFF, V. SALVATORE DIMARTINO, DEFENDANT. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, PLAINTIFF, V. JOSEPH A. SULPIZIE, DEFENDANT. CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, PLAINTIFF, V. JAMES SPROULES, DEFENDANT



Wells, J.s.c.

Wells

These four cases consolidated for hearing and decision are before the court on plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff City of Philadelphia (city) seeks New Jersey judgments based upon judgments against each defendant entered in the Court of Common Pleas, Trial Division, of the County of Philadelphia, State of Pennsylvania, pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause, U.S. Const., Art. IV , § 1. Defendants resist, asserting various constitutional defenses. The undisputed facts are:

Since 1939 the city has levied a tax upon wages earned by persons working within the County of Philadelphia, Philadelphia

Pa. Code , § 19-1500 (1973). This tax, known as the wage and net profit tax (hereinafter wage tax), is a self-assessed tax which places the responsibility of filing a return upon the taxpayer. In these actions defendant taxpayers are residents of the State of New Jersey who are employed by the Federal Government on federal enclaves inside the boundaries of Philadelphia.*fn1 The defendants refused to file the necessary forms or pay the assessed taxes.

In each case suits alleging the resultant tax deficiency against each defendant were filed in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County and served upon defendants under the Pennsylvania Long-Arm Statute, 42 Pa. C.S.A. § 8301 et seq. , by serving the Secretary of the Commonwealth and defendants at their last known address by certified mail, return receipt. The records of the Pennsylvania proceedings before this court show that all the addresses were to communities within Burlington County and that in three cases the certified mail went unclaimed and that one was refused. After defendants failed to answer, appear or otherwise defend, the city moved to enter judgments by default for failure to plead. Notices pursuant to Pennsylvania R.C.P. 2082 were sent to each defendant by certified mail, return receipt requested notifying them that default judgments would be entered within 20 days of the mailing of the notice. Once again defendants either refused delivery of the letter or it went unclaimed. Following expiration of the 20-day period without response from defendants, judgments were entered in favor of the city. These New Jersey actions on the aforesaid Pennsylvania judgments followed.

Defendants argue on various grounds that the judgments entered by the courts of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are not entitled to full faith and credit. U.S. Const., Art. IV , § 1. Generally, the Full Faith and Credit

Clause requires every state to give at least the res judicata effect which the judgment would be accorded in the state which rendered it. Duke v. Durfee , 375 U.S. 106, 109, 84 S. Ct. 242, 11 L. Ed. 2d 186 (1963). However, it is a well established constitutional principle that a judgment entered without due process of law is not entitled to full faith and credit and may not be enforced even as a matter of comity. Griffin v. Griffin , 327 U.S. 220, 228-229, 66 S. Ct. 556, 90 L. Ed. 635 (1946); See also, Restatement, Conflicts 2d, § 104 at 315 (1969). Thus, a court of this State, when asked to enforce a foreign state judgment, must deny full faith and credit if the rendering court lacked in personam jurisdiction, Duke v. Durfee, supra , 375 U.S. at 106, 84 S. Ct. 242, 11 L. Ed. 2d 186; subject matter jurisdiction, James v. Francesco , 61 N.J. 480, 485 (1972); Klaiber v. Frank , 9 N.J. 1 (1952), or failed to provide adequate notice and an opportunity to be heard. National Exchange Bank v. Wiley , 195 U.S. 257, 25 S. Ct. 70, 49 L. Ed. 184 (1904); Griffin v. Griffin, supra. Defendants assert that the judgments recorded in the Commonwealth courts were entered without due process. U.S. Const. Amend XIV. The primary issues may be summarized as follows:

1. Did lack of notice to defendants of their rights to administrative review prior to the filing of the suits in Pennsylvania, combined with the probable application in Pennsylvania of its doctrine of exhaustion of remedies, deprive defendants of an effective right to be heard within the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania?

2. Did the application of Rule 306, PA. R.C.P. (Philadelphia County), amended May 17, 1976, also cited as Rule 40-H(1) and (2), Philadelphia Civil Rules , operate to deny defendants the effective opportunity to appear and defend in the Pennsylvania courts?

3. Did defendants have sufficient minimal contacts in Pennsylvania for its courts to render in personam judgments against them grounded upon service outside ...


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