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Mitchell v. W.T. Grant Co.

    Brief Fact Summary.   See Facts below.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. Prejudgment-seizure is proper when a judge reviews the complaint that has specific facts alleging possession, a bond is posted, and a hearing is afforded to the party.

    Facts. Grant sold a refrigerator, range, stereo and a washing machine to Mitchell. This was done on credit. Mitchell owed $574.00. Grant filed an affidavit of the amount and stated they had reason to believe Mitchell would alienate or destroy the property. Without a hearing, a Judge signed an order of sequestration and directed a constable to take possession after Grant posted a bond for twice that amount that was due.

    Issue. Whether a sequestration statute authorizing pre-judgment seizure of property violates the Due Process Clause.

    Held. No. Typically pre-judgment procedures, here sequestration, are found to violate due process. However this statute affords parties the requirements necessary for those rights not to be violated. Here it is a judge that reviews the complaint that must provide specific facts for seizure, and the defendant is awarded a hearing to dispute the complaint. Also the writ states the plaintiff will pay for any fines damages and attorney’s fees if a wrongful writ is made. These protections minimize the risk of error significantly.

    Dissent. This case was not meant to overrule Fuentes that invalidates pre-judgment seizures; this case was constitutionally indistinguishable from Fuentes and the majority pushed that decision upon the whole court.

    Discussion. The issue with these cases is that both seller and buyer own an interest in the property that is subject of the claim. However there needs to remain a balance between both parties interest.


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