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City of Philadelphia v. Wheeler

Decided: December 13, 1983.

CITY OF PHILADELPHIA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BURDETTE J. WHEELER, DEFENDANT



Haines, A.j.s.c.

Haines

[192 NJSuper Page 618] The City of Philadelphia obtained a Pennsylvania judgment against the defendant, Burdette J. Wheeler, for unpaid city

wage taxes, together with interest, costs and penalties. It seeks the enforcement of that judgment here. Its action is subject to the provisions of L. 1983, c. 350, effective September 29, 1983 (the act), an enactment which it challenges as unconstitutional. The act, except for the provisions of its first section, is unquestionably unconstitutional and on several grounds.

A. Section 1 of the Act

Section 1 sets forth recognized due process requirements relating to the enforcement of foreign judgments. It repeats the language of N.J.S.A. 2A:82-4, which the act repeals. This section is not challenged here; it survives by virtue of the severability clause in section 6 of the act.

B. Section 2 of the act

This section provides:

In any proceeding upon a foreign judgment, including a judgment of any court out of this State, the plaintiff, or person seeking to enforce the judgment, shall have the burden of proving that the requirements, statutory and otherwise, of the foreign jurisdiction have been met, conferring jurisdiction of the subject matter of the foreign proceeding on the foreign court or tribunal and over the defendant or person sought to be affected by the judgment.

The Full Faith and Credit Clause is found in Art. IV, ยง 1 of the United States Constitution. It states:

Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and Judicial Proceedings of every other State. And the Congress may by general Laws prescribe the Manner in which such Acts, Records and Proceedings shall be proved, and the Effect thereof.

When suit is brought on a foreign judgment, the Full Faith and Credit Clause permits inquiry only into the jurisdiction of the foreign court; the existence of the judgment is conclusive as to the validity of all other aspects of the proceedings which led to its entry. Zieper v. Zieper, 14 N.J. 551, 566-567 (1954). By virtue of the clause, jurisdiction over the subject matter and the person, however, is presumed; the burden of proving the absence of that jurisdiction is upon she who challenges the judgment. Ibid.; Esenwein v. Commonwealth, 325 U.S. 279, 280-281,

65 S. Ct. 1118, 1119, 89 L. Ed. 1608, 1610 (1945); Williams v. North Carolina, 325 U.S. 226, 234, 65 S. Ct. 1092, 1097, 89 L. Ed. 1577 (1945); Adam v. Saenger, 303 U.S. 59, 62, 58 S. Ct. 454, 456, 82 L. Ed. 649 (1938). Section 2 of the act ignores these well-established principles and shifts the burden of proving jurisdiction to the party who seeks to ...


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