Attachment and Garnishment–Constitutional Law–Due Process of Law–Garnishment of Wages Prior to Judgment Is a Denial of Due Process: The Sniadach Case and Its Implications for Related Areas of the Law

The question of the constitutionality of prejudgment wage garnishment had never before reached the Supreme Court, although in McKay v. Mclnnes, a 1929 memorandum decision, the Court had upheld a statute providing for prejudgment attachment. McKay, which was cited as controlling by the Wisconsin court in its disposition of the constitutional argument in Sniadach, involved an attachment of realty and stock to satisfy a debt. Justice Douglas, writing for the Court in Sniadach, distinguished that case from one involving wage garnishment with the statement that “[a] procedural rule that may satisfy due process for attachments in general … does not necessarily satisfy procedural due process in every case.” The Sniadach Court’s refusal to apply the holding of McKay to a case involving wage garnishment suggests that the Court may be in the process of re-evaluating the entire area of prejudgment attachment and garnishment. In addition, the Sniadach decision may have implications for other areas of law which concern the poor debtor. This Note will analyze the foundations, express and implied, of the Court’s wage garnishment decision, and it will suggest possible applications of that decision to other problems.