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decided: January 31, 1938.



Hughes, McReynolds, Brandeis, Butler, Stone, Roberts, Black; Cardozo took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.

Author: Stone

[ 303 U.S. Page 60]

 MR. JUSTICE STONE delivered the opinion of the Court.

The question for decision is whether the action, in this case, of the Texas state courts, in dismissing a suit founded upon a judgment of the superior court of California, denied to the judgment the faith and credit which the Constitution commands.

Petitioner, as assignee of a California judgment against the Beaumont Export & Import Company, a Texas corporation, brought the present suit in the Texas state district court against respondents, directors of the corporation acting as its trustees in dissolution, and against its stockholders as transferees of corporate assets, to collect the judgment. His petition sets out in detail the circumstances attending the rendition of the California judgment

[ 303 U.S. Page 61]

     and incorporates by reference a duly attested copy of the judgment roll.

It appears that the corporation brought suit in the Superior Court of California, a court of general jurisdiction, against Montes, petitioner's predecessor in interest, to recover a money judgment for goods sold and delivered. Thereupon Montes, following what is alleged to be the California practice, with leave of the court brought a cross-action against the corporation, by service of a cross-complaint upon the corporation's attorney of record in the pending suit, to recover for the conversion of chattels. Judgment in the cross-action, taken by default, was followed by dismissal of the corporation's suit and is the judgment which is the subject of the present suit. A motion to open the default and to be allowed to defend, made later on behalf of the corporation, was contested and was denied by the court, the issue being whether the cross-complaint was in fact served on the plaintiff's attorney.

The trial court sustained a general demurrer to the complaint and gave judgment dismissing the cause, which the Court of Appeals affirmed, 101 S. W. 2d 1046. Petition to the Texas supreme court for a writ of error was denied for want of jurisdiction. We granted certiorari, cf. Bain Peanut Co. v. Pinson, 282 U.S. 499, the question being an important one of constitutional law. Our writ is properly directed to the Court of Civil Appeals, it being the highest court of the state in which a judgment could be had. Bacon v. Texas, 163 U.S. 207, 215; Sullivan v. Texas, 207 U.S. 416; San Antonio & A. P. Ry. Co. v. Wagner, 241 U.S. 476; American Railway Express Co. v. Levee, 263 U.S. 19.

The Court of Civil Appeals rested its decision on a single ground, want of jurisdiction of the California court over the corporation in the cross-action in which the judgment was rendered. Construing the California statutes

[ 303 U.S. Page 62]

     and decisions which the complaint set out, it concluded that they did not authorize service of the complaint in the cross-action upon the plaintiff's attorney of record. It held further that in any case as the corporation was not present within the state no jurisdiction could be acquired over it by the substituted service, and the California judgment was consequently without due process and a nullity beyond the protection of the full faith and credit clause. To review these rulings we brought the case here. Cf. Ward v. Love County, 253 U.S. 17, 25; Indiana ex rel. Anderson v. Brand, post, p. 95.

By R. S. § 905, 28 U. S. C. 687, enacted under authority of the full faith and credit clause, Art. IV, § 1 of the Constitution, the duly attested record of the judgment of a state is entitled to such faith and credit in every court within the United States as it has by law or usage in the state from which it is taken. If it appears on its face to be a record of a court of general jurisdiction, such jurisdiction over the cause and the parties is to be presumed unless disproved by extrinsic evidence, or by the record itself. Hanley v. Donoghue, 116 U.S. 1; Knowles v. Gaslight & Coke Co., 19 Wall. 58; Settlemier v. Sullivan, 97 U.S. 444. But in a suit upon the judgment of another state the jurisdiction of the court which rendered it is open to judicial inquiry, Chicago Life Insurance Co. v. Cherry, 244 U.S. 25, and when the matter of fact or law on which jurisdiction depends was not litigated in the original suit it is a matter to be adjudicated in the suit founded upon the judgment. Thompson v. Whitman, 18 Wall. 457. Here the fact of the service of the complaint upon the attorney is alleged by the ...

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