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PINELLAS CTY. v. GREAT AMERICAN MGMT. & INV.

March 28, 1991

PINELLAS COUNTY, a political subdivision of the State of Florida, Plaintiff,
v.
GREAT AMERICAN MANAGEMENT AND INVESTMENT, INC., Defendant



The opinion of the court was delivered by: NORGLE

 CHARLES R. NORGLE, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

 Before the court are the motions of defendant Great American Management and Investment, Inc. ("Great American") and intervenor-defendant Madison Management Group, Inc. ("Madison") to dismiss plaintiff's complaint. For the reasons discussed below, the motions are granted.

 FACTS

 This case originates from a Florida state court proceeding in which plaintiff Pinellas County ("Pinellas") sued Madison and various others over alleged structural and engineering failures in a water pipeline system. On June 6, 1990, the Circuit Court for Pinellas County, Florida entered a judgment in favor of Pinellas and against Madison, among others, for $ 24,014,630.62. The judgment is presently on appeal in the Florida state court system.

 On June 27, 1990, pursuant to the Illinois Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act ("UEFJA"), *fn1" Pinellas registered the judgment of the Circuit Court of Pinellas County, Florida in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois. This action was docketed as Case No. 90 L 10003. *fn2" Subsequently, Pinellas filed a separate action in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Case No. 90 L 18316, to register the final cost judgment (for $ 1,313,372.08) which had been entered by the Circuit Court of Pinellas County in the original Florida action.

 On September 10, 1990, Pinellas filed the instant action against Great American, asserting diversity subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1332. *fn3" In this action, Pinellas alleges that Great American has possession of two promissory notes (in the sum of $ 26 million) payable on demand to Madison. Pinellas seeks to garnish these notes under the Illinois garnishment statute, for the purpose of satisfying its Florida judgment, now registered in the Circuit Court of Cook County.

 DISCUSSION

 Defendants have moved to dismiss plaintiff's "Garnishment Complaint" on three grounds. First, they argue that this garnishment action is merely a post-judgment proceeding ancillary to plaintiff's state court judgment and is not an independent suit over which this court has subject matter jurisdiction. Second, they argue that Pinellas is an arm of the state of Florida for jurisdictional purposes and is therefore not a "citizen" of a state as required to assert diversity jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332. Third, defendants argue that Madison was not given notice of the instant garnishment action and that the plaintiff's failure to notify Madison constituted a violation of Madison's constitutional due process rights. *fn4" Because the court finds defendants' first argument dispositive, it does not reach the subsequent issues raised in their motion.

 The Illinois garnishment statute, on which this action is based, provides for the institution of a garnishment proceeding, in relevant part, as follows:

 
Upon the filing by a judgment creditor or other person of an affidavit that the affiant believes any person is indebted to the judgment debtor, other than for wages, or has in his or her possession, custody or control any other property belonging to the judgment debtor or in which the judgment debtor has an interest, and which includes written interrogatories to be answered by that person with respect to the indebtedness . . . the clerk of the court in which the judgment was entered shall issue summons against the person named in the affidavit commanding him or her to appear in the court as garnishee and answer the interrogatories in writing under oath. [Emphasis added.]

 Ill. Rev. Stat. ch. 110, para. 12-701 (1984). A plain reading of the statutory language here supports the defendants' position that under Illinois law, a garnishment action is merely a post-judgment proceeding in which jurisdiction is retained by the court which entered the underlying judgment.

 In this case, the underlying judgment was originally entered in the Circuit Court of Pinellas County, Florida and was subsequently registered in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, pursuant to the UEFJA. Under the UEFJA, this registration entitled the Florida state court judgment to receive full faith and credit in Illinois, as if the judgment had been entered in the Circuit Court of Cook County. See Paine, Webber, Jackson & Curtis, Inc. v. Rongren, 127 Ill. App. 3d 85, 468 N.E.2d 459, 82 Ill. Dec. 197 (1st Dist. 1984) (Purpose of UEFJA is to implement the full faith and credit clause of the Federal Constitution and to facilitate interstate enforcement of judgments). Therefore, the court must decide whether a garnishment proceeding to enforce a judgment entered in the Circuit Court of Cook County may be filed in a separate action in federal court.

 Defendants, citing considerable case law in support of their position, argue that this garnishment proceeding may not be filed as a separate action in federal court. See, e.g., White Way Sign & Maintenance Co. v. Seltzer Pontiac, Inc., 56 Ill. 2d 342, 307 N.E.2d 386 (1974); Wieboldt Stores v. Sturdy, 384 Ill. 271, 51 N.E.2d 268 (1943); Hinchcliff v. Insurance Co. of N. Am., 277 Ill. App. 109 (1st Dist. 1934). In White Way Sign, the Illinois Supreme Court held that "garnishment is an ancillary proceeding designed to obtain satisfaction of a judgment [citation omitted] and is not a distinct or separate suit from the original action for judgment [citation omitted]." 56 Ill. 2d at 344, 307 N.E.2d at 387; accord Wieboldt Stores, 384 Ill. at 275-276, 51 N.E.2d at 270 (garnishment is an "additional step in the original action"); Hinchcliff, 277 Ill. App. at 118-119 ("'garnishment is in no sense a new suit, but is a special auxiliary remedy . . . and is always ancillary to the main action under which it is brought'"). *fn5" ...


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