Connecticut v. Doehr

501 U.S. 1 (1991)


DiGiovanni (D) used a Connecticut (D1) statute for prejudgment attachment against Doehr (P) on a potential tort claim. D had sued P for assault and battery. D filed an ex parte declaration about the nature of his claim against P for a $75,000 attachment against P’s home. D submitted an affidavit in support of his application. In five one-sentence paragraphs, D stated the facts that 'I was willfully, wantonly and maliciously assaulted by the defendant, Brian K. Doehr'; that 'said assault and battery broke my left wrist and further caused an ecchymosis to my right eye, as well as other injuries'; and that 'I have further expended sums of money for medical care and treatment.' The affidavit concluded with the statement, 'In my opinion, the foregoing facts are sufficient to show that there is probable cause that judgment will be rendered for the plaintiff.' D1 law authorizes prejudgment attachment of real estate without affording prior notice or the opportunity for a prior hearing to the individual whose property is subject to the attachment. There was no requirement that D show exigent circumstances for the prejudgment attachment nor to even post a bond. The tort suit did not involve P’s house, and D had no pre-existing interest in the home. The state court issued the order and P filed this federal suit to attack the constitutionality of the state procedure. The statute does not require P to post a bond to ensure payment of damages that the defendant may suffer should the attachment be deemed to be issue wrongly. It is also authorized without prior notice or an opportunity to be heard but did provide for post-issuance hearings. The district court upheld the statute's validity. That decision was reversed by the Second Circuit. The Supreme Court granted review.