Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Company, Inc.

PETITIONER: Giles M. Lugar
RESPONDENT: Edmondson Oil Company, Inc.
LOCATION: A truck stop

DOCKET NO.: 80-1730
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit

CITATION: 457 US 922 (1982)
ARGUED: Dec 08, 1981
DECIDED: Jun 25, 1982

ADVOCATES:
James W. Haskins - on behalf of the Respondent
Robert L. Morrison, Jr. - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case

Giles Lugar leased a truckstop from Edmondson Oil Co. and fell behind on his rent payments. Edmondson issued a suit against him in a Virginia state court for failing to repay his debt. Before the court reached a decision, it issued a "writ of attachment" against Lugar. This disabled him from selling any property he owned while the case was open, since Edmondson wanted the property as collateral in case he could not repay his debt. A state trial judge cancelled the "writ of attachment" one month later after finding no statutory justification for its issuance. Lugar claimed that Edmondson worked with the government to deprive him of his property without the due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment. He said this caused him financial loss and sought to recover damages from Edmondson in a District Court under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983. This code provides rewards to those who have had their rights violated because of "state action." The District Court rejected Lugar's claim because it deemed that no "state action" had occurred. On review, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit rejected using solely "state action" to validate Section 1983 suits. It claimed that certain instances where private parties acted "under the color of state law" also validated Section 1983 suits. However the Fourth Circuit found that none of these actions occurred in Lugar's case and rejected his suit.

Question

Do "state actions" that occur indirectly "under the color of state law" and violate an individual's Fourtheenth Amendment rights validate damage recovery suits filed under 42 U.S.C. Section 1983?

Media for Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Company, Inc.

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 08, 1981 in Lugar v. Edmondson Oil Company, Inc.

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Lugar against Edmondson Oil Company,... 80-1730.

Mr. Morrison, I think you may proceed whenever you're ready.

Robert L. Morrison, Jr.:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

The case before the Court today is another challenge of the pre-judgment seizure, somewhat on the order of the Fuentes case and its various progeny.

It bears a rather unusual past history which I would like to go into just a little bit because it bears on where we are today.

Mr. Lugar, the petitioner, was the lessee/operator of Lakewood Truck Stop in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, down near the North Carolina border.

He was its sole proprietor.

Mr. Barbour is the President of Edmondson Oil Company who sold fuel to Mr. Lugar for resale, and Mr. Lugar had an open account with him.

That was the only relationship between Edmondson Oil Company and Mr. Lugar.

On the 31st of May, 1977, Mr. Barbour as President of Edmondson Oil Company swore out a pre-judgment attachment petition in the Circuit Court of Pittsylvania County, which is the trial court of general jurisdiction in Virginia.

The petition in question alleged that Mr. Lugar was, I believe, assigning, concealing, disposing or converting his assets with the intent to hinder or delay his creditors.

No fraud was alleged in the petition.

This, as I said, was sworn out on the 31st of March, 1977.

On the 1st of April, 1977, it was filed in the clerk's office of the Circuit Court of Pittsylvania County.

The clerk, upon receipt of the petition for pre-judgment attachment, as mandated by the Code of Virginia, issued a writ of attachment to the Sheriff of Pittsylvania County directing him to levy on Mr. Lugar's goods.

The sheriff did levy, as is shown in the Appendix, in his return on the 1st, the 2nd and the 4th of April on Mr. Lugar at Lakewood Truck Stop and also on his bank accounts.

At that point, his business assets were frozen, his bank accounts were frozen and he was prevented from doing business.

In Virginia, the pre-judgment attachment petition process is materially different from the detinue process.

We have both.

For a pre-judgment attachment petition you need only appear before the clerk with a sworn petition alleging that the defendant debtor is concealing, disposing, assigning or converting his assets with intent to hinder, delay or defraud his creditors.

Now, there are other grounds but they are not applicable here; they deal with out-of-state defendants.

But you filed a suit either simultaneously or suit had been filed either simultaneously or before that, hadn't it?

Robert L. Morrison, Jr.:

The petition for an attachment is the filing of the suit.

They are combined in one document?

Robert L. Morrison, Jr.:

Yes, sir.

If the attachment petition is dismissed... if the levy is dismissed, I should say, the action proceeds as a motion for judgment, which is the same thing as a complaint in Virginia by federal procedure.

So even though in this case the levy was dismissed, it went on as a motion for judgment and ended in a judgment against Mr. Lugar.

The writ issues by the clerk under the law as a ministerial act on the filing of the petition.

He issues a writ to the sheriff, no bond is required for the levy, although a bond for an actual physical seizure would be required.

The sheriff goes and levies and really shuts them down, because the bank was not about to allow him the use of the money with a levy attached to it.