Attachment and Garnishment in the Federal Courts

Personal injuries allegedly caused by the negligent manufacture of safety fuses used in blasting operations in a coal mine were suffered by Raymond Davis, apparently a citizen of Arkansas. The manufacturer, Ensign-Bickford Company, was a Connecticut corporation that could not be personally served with process within Arkansas. But it happened that two foreign corporations, amenable to process in the state, were indebted in substantial amounts to Ensign-Bickford Company. Accordingly, counsel for Davis, invoking the diversity jurisdiction, filed an action in the District Court for the Western District of Arkansas. Without issue of summons, the plaintiff, in conformity with Arkansas statutes, sued out orders of general attachment, for notice by publication, and for warning the defendant. The two debtor corporations, having been garnished, answered and admitted their indebtedness to the defendant. The defendant appeared specially to object to the jurisdiction of the court; judgment was entered quashing and vacating the writs of attachment and garnishment, and dismissing the complaint for want of jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed, holding that in the federal courts “Jurisdiction cannot be acquired by means of attachment.” The question to be considered here is: In heaven’s name, why not?