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Harris v. Balk

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Brief Fact Summary.

Harris owed $180 to Balk. Balk owed $300 to Epstein. Harris and Balk were North Carolina residents; Epstein was a Maryland resident. After a Maryland court issued a writ of garnishment for the $180 debt that Harris owed Balk, Balk sued Harris in North Carolina to recover the $180 debt. The North Carolina court agreed with Balk’s claim that the Maryland court lacked jurisdiction, and refused to accord full faith and credit to the Maryland judgment.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

If a state law allows for attachment of a debt, the court can acquire jurisdiction by personal service and can garnish the debt as long as the garnishee could have been sued by the creditor in that state; the debtor’s obligation “clings to and accompanies him wherever he goes.”

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

Attachment is the creature of the local law; that is, unless there is a law of the State providing for and permitting the attachment it cannot be levied there.

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Facts.

North Carolina resident Harris owed $180 to another North Carolina resident, Balk. Balk owed $300 to Epstein, a Maryland resident. While Harris was in Maryland on a business trip, a Maryland court issued a writ of garnishment for the $180 debt that Harris owed Balk, at Epstein’s request. Harris paid the $180 to Epstein’s lawyer. Balk then sued Harris in North Carolina to recover the $180 debt. Harris argued that the debt had been paid; Balk argued that the Maryland court had lacked jurisdiction over Harris. The North Carolina court agreed with Balk, refusing to accord full faith and creditto the Maryland judgment. Harris appealed.

Issue.

Did the North Carolina court err in not according full faith and credit to the Maryland judgment?

Held.

Yes. North Carolina had to recognize the Maryland judgment.

Discussion.

The Maryland judgment against Harris was a valid judgment; the Maryland court had jurisdiction over Harris by personal service of process within the state of Maryland.


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