SUTTON V. LEIB, 342 U. S. 402 (1952)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Sutton v. Leib, 342 U.S. 402 (1952)

Sutton v. Leib

No. 143

Submitted December 3, 1951

Decided March 3, 1952

342 U.S. 402


Asserting diversity jurisdiction, petitioner brought suit in a federal district court in Illinois to recover alimony under an Illinois divorce decree which awarded her alimony until remarriage. Subsequent to the Illinois divorce, petitioner remarried in Nevada, but the marriage was later annulled in New York on the ground that the man she married in Nevada was already married in New York and his Nevada divorce from his first wife was invalid.


1. The liability of the defendant in this case is governed by the state law of Illinois, although the decision of federal constitutional issues involved rests finally on this Court. P. 342 U. S. 406.

2. Upon the facts of this case, the New York annulment of the Nevada marriage must be accorded full faith and credit in Illinois. Pp. 342 U. S. 406-409.

(a) The Nevada decree divorcing petitioner's second husband from his first wife, who was not personally served in Nevada and entered no appearance there, was subject to attack and nullification in New York for lack of jurisdiction over the parties in a contested action. Pp. 342 U. S. 408-409.

3. The question of the effect of the Nevada marriage and the New York annulment on the obligation of the defendant in the alimony suit must be determined under Illinois law. Pp. 342 U. S. 409-412.

(a) As a matter of constitutional law, Illinois is free to decide for itself the effect of New York's declaration of annulment on the obligations of petitioner's first husband, a stranger to the New York decree. P. 342 U. S. 410.

(b) The jurisdiction of the federal court in this case rests on diversity of citizenship; the case does not present any nonfederal issue suitable for separation and determination in the state courts, and the remaining questions of state law should be decided by the federal courts. P. 342 U. S. 410.

4. The Court of Appeals' ruling that, in the circumstances of this case, there was no compromise of a disputed claim, is accepted here. P. 342 U. S. 411.

188 F.2d 766 reversed.

Page 342 U. S. 403

In a diversity suit to recover unpaid installments of alimony, the District Court rendered summary judgment for the defendant. The Court of Appeals,affirmed. 188 F.2d 766. This Court granted certiorari. 342 U.S. 846. Reversed and remanded, p. 342 U. S. 412.

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