Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

ESENWEIN v. COMMONWEALTH EX REL. ESENWEIN

decided: May 21, 1945.

ESENWEIN
v.
COMMONWEALTH EX REL. ESENWEIN



CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF PENNSYLVANIA.

Stone, Roberts, Black, Reed, Frankfurter, Douglas, Murphy, Jackson, Rutledge

Author: Frankfurter

[ 325 U.S. Page 279]

 MR. JUSTICE FRANKFURTER delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case involves the same problem as that which was considered in Williams v. North Carolina, ante, p. 226. There are minor variations of fact, but the considerations which controlled the result in the Williams case govern this.

Petitioner and respondent were married in Pennsylvania in 1899. They separated in 1919 but continued to live there. The wife, respondent, obtained a support order in the Pennsylvania courts which was modified from

[ 325 U.S. Page 280]

     time to time. Twice the petitioner sought a divorce in Pennsylvania and failed. In 1941 he went to Nevada, arriving at Las Vegas on June 23rd. Six weeks later, promptly within the minimum period allowed by Nevada law, he there filed a suit for divorce. It was granted September 8th. Shortly thereafter, early in October, he left Nevada and took up his residence in Cleveland, Ohio, where he made his home. On February 1, 1943 petitioner filed an application before the County Court for Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, for total relief from the support order. He did so on the basis of the decision in Williams v. North Carolina, 317 U.S. 287, which had been decided on December 21, 1942. Exemplified copies of the Nevada proceedings, with other relevant evidence, were submitted to the County Court, which, after argument, denied the application. Its decision was affirmed by the Superior Court on the ground that petitioner did not have a bona fide domicil in Nevada when he obtained his decree of divorce. 153 Pa. Super. 69, 33 A. 2d 675. This was sustained by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, 348 Pa. 455, 35 A. 2d 335, and we then granted certiorari. 322 U.S. 725.

Since, according to Pennsylvania law, a support order does not survive divorce, Commonwealth v. Parker, 59 Pa. Super. 74; Commonwealth v. Kurniker, 96 Pa. Super. 553, the efficacy of the Nevada divorce in Pennsylvania is the decisive question in the case. The facts relating to domicil are not essentially different from those set forth in Williams v. North Carolina, ante, p. 226, except that petitioner, instead of staying in an auto court, lived in a hotel and did not return to Pennsylvania, his domiciliary state before he came to Nevada, but went to Ohio.

The Full Faith and Credit Clause placed the Pennsylvania courts under duty to accord prima facie validity to the Nevada decree. The burden is on the litigant who would escape the operation of a judgment decreed in another

[ 325 U.S. Page 281]

     State. Pennsylvania recognized that burden, but its courts were warranted in finding that the respondent sustained her burden of impeaching the foundation of the Nevada decree on the jurisdictional prerequisite of bona fide domicil. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court rightly indicated that if merely the Nevada decree had been in evidence, it was entitled to carry the day. But the Supreme Court found that on the entire showing there was convincing countervailing evidence to disprove petitioner's intention to establish a domicil in Nevada. The Pennsylvania courts have viewed their Constitutional duty correctly. It is not for us to retry the facts, and we cannot say that in reaching their conclusion the Pennsylvania courts did not have warrant in evidence and did not fairly weigh the facts.

Petitioner makes a subsidiary claim which need not detain us long. He asserts that he had no notice that the Nevada domicil was to be put in issue, and that therefore it was unfair to decide that question on this record. He points to the fact that for its decision the County Court relied on the Pennsylvania denials of divorce as res judicata, whereas the appellate courts rested their decisions on the issue of domicil. Since the record does not support the basis of this claim, we are relieved from considering its legal significance. The issue of domicil was appropriately pleaded in defense, it was contested at the trial, and before the Superior Court ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.