Peacock v. Thomas (94-1453), 516 U.S. 349 (1996).
[ Thomas ]
[ Stevens ]
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No. 94-1453


on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the fourth circuit

[February 21, 1996]

Justice Stevens , dissenting.

In substance the Court so held in Riggs v. Johnson County, 6 Wall. 166 (1868), and in Labette County Comm'rs v. United States ex rel. Moulton, 112 U.S. 217 (1884). In each of those cases a judgment against the county was unsatisfied because the county commissioners refused to levy a tax to raise the funds needed to pay the judgment, and in each this Court held that the federal court had jurisdiction to compel the commissioners to take the action necessary to enable the county to satisfy the judgment. It is true, as the Court notes today, that the "order in each case merely required compliance with the existing judgment by the persons with authority to comply." Ante, at 8. But the Court fails to explain why the District Court would not have had jurisdiction to enter a comparable order in this case--one that would have directed petitioner to restore to the judgment debtor the assets that he allegedly transferred to himself to prevent satisfaction of the judgment. [n.*]

It is true that the order that was actually entered against petitioner did more than that--it ordered him to satisfy the original judgment in full, rather than merely to restore the fraudulent transfers. For that reason, I agree that the relief was excessive and should be modified. Nevertheless, the Court's central holding that the District Court had no power to grant any relief against petitioner is inconsistent with Riggs and Labette.

I am also persuaded that the Court's reliance on H. C.

Cook Co. v. Beecher, 217 U.S. 497 (1910), is misplaced. The theory of the complaint against the directors of the judgment debtor in that case was that they were "joint trespassers," equally liable for the patent infringement. That theory was comparable to the claim against this petitioner that was asserted and rejected in the original ERISA action. It depended on proof that the directors' prejudgment conduct should subject them to the same liability as the judgment debtor. See id., at 498. What is at issue now, however, is whether petitioner's post-judgment conduct which frustrated satisfaction of the judgment was subject to the continuing jurisdiction of the court that entered that judgment. To that question Beecher does not speak.

In sum, I am persuaded that it is the reasoning in Riggs and Labette, rather than Beecher, that should resolve the jurisdictional issue. Accordingly, I respectfully dissent.


* Both the Court of Appeals and the District Court acknowledged that respondent brought this action to preserve the initial ERISA judgment. See Thomas v. Peacock, 39 F. 3d 493, 502 (CA4 1994) (describing action as "an equitable attempt to satisfy a previous judgment entered against a fiduciary"); Civ. Action No. 7:91-3843-21 (D. S. C., Jun. 24, 1992), p. 5, App. to Pet. for Cert. 57a ("[T]he present action is an attempt to satisfy a former judgment properly rendered by the District Court"). Petitioner recognized the same. See Brief for Appellant in No. 92-2524 (CA4), p. 15 ("Plaintiff has . . . consistently characterized this lawsuit as an action for the collection of a judgment"). Although one passage in respondent's brief to this Court suggests that the suit was not a collection action, it is clear that respondent meant only to rebut the notion that the proceeding was wholly independent of the earlier suit. The remainder of the brief confirms the lower courts' understanding of the nature of the action, see Brief for Respondent 17-24, and respondent expressly stated the same at oral argument. See Tr. of Oral Arg. 26-27 (agreeing with the District Court's statement that the action before it was "an attempt to satisfy the former judgment").