MR. JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.
In this case, a state trial judge in Louisiana ordered the sequestration of personal property on the application of a creditor who had made an installment sale of the goods to petitioner and whose affidavit asserted delinquency and prayed for sequestration to enforce a vendor's lien under state law. The issue is whether the sequestration violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment because it was ordered ex parte, without prior notice or opportunity for a hearing.
On February 2, 1972, respondent W. T. Grant Co. filed suit in the First City Court of the City of New Orleans, Louisiana, against petitioner, Lawrence Mitchell. The petition alleged the sale by Grant to Mitchell of a refrigerator, range, stereo, and washing machine, and an overdue and unpaid balance of the purchase price for said items in the amount of $574.17. Judgment for
Petitioner's basic proposition is that because he had possession of and a substantial interest in the sequestered property, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment necessarily forbade the seizure without prior notice and opportunity for a hearing. In the circumstances presented here, we cannot agree.
Plainly enough, this is not a case where the property sequestered by the court is exclusively the property of the defendant debtor. The question is not whether a debtor's property may be seized by his creditors, pendente lite, where they hold no present interest in the property sought to be seized. The reality is that both seller and buyer had current, real interests in the property, and the definition of property rights is a matter of state law. Resolution of the due process question must take account not only of the interests of the buyer of the property but those of the seller as well.
With this duality in mind, we are convinced that the
Louisiana statutes provide for sequestration where "one claims the ownership or right to possession of property, or a mortgage, lien, or privilege thereon . . . if it is within the power of the defendant to conceal, dispose of, or waste the property or the revenues therefrom, or remove the property from the parish, during the pendency of the action." Art. 3571. The writ, however, will not issue on the conclusory allegation of ownership or possessory rights. Article 3501
The writ is obtainable on the creditor's ex parte application, without notice to the debtor or opportunity for a hearing, but the statute entitles the debtor immediately to seek dissolution of the writ, which must be ordered unless the creditor "proves the grounds upon which the writ was issued," Art. 3506, the existence of the debt, lien, and delinquency, failing which the court may order return of the property and assess damages in favor of the debtor, including attorney's fees.
In our view, this statutory procedure effects a constitutional accommodation of the conflicting interests of the parties. We cannot accept petitioner's broad assertion that the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment guaranteed to him the use and possession of the goods until all issues in the case were judicially resolved after full adversary proceedings had been completed. It is certainly clear under this Court's precedents that issues can be limited in actions for possession. Indeed, in Grant Timber & Mfg. Co. v. Gray, 236 U.S. 133 (1915) (Holmes, J.), the Court upheld such limitations in possessory actions for real property in Louisiana. See also Bianchi v. Morales, 262 U.S. 170 (1923); Lindsey v. Normet, 405 U.S. 56 (1972). Petitioner's claim must accordingly be narrowed to one for a hearing on the issues in the possessory action—default, the existence of a lien, and possession of the debtor—before property is taken.
As to this claim, the seller here, with a vendor's lien to secure payment of the unpaid balance of purchase price, had the right either to be paid in accordance with its contract or to have possession of the goods for the purpose of foreclosing its lien and recovering the unpaid balance. By complaint and affidavit, the seller swore
The State of Louisiana was entitled to recognize this reality and to provide somewhat more protection for the seller. This it did in Orleans Parish by authorizing the sequestration of property by a judge. At the same time, the buyer being deprived of possession, the seller was required to put up a bond to guarantee the buyer against damage or expense, including attorney's fees, in the event the sequestration is shown to be mistaken or otherwise improvident. The buyer is permitted to regain possession by putting up his own bond to protect the seller. Absent that bond, which petitioner did not file in this case, the seller would be unprotected against the inevitable deterioration in the value of his security if the buyer remained in possession pending trial on the merits. The debtor, unlike the creditor, does not stand ready to make the opposing party whole, if his possession, pending a prior hearing, turns out to be wrongful.
Second, there is the real risk that the buyer, with possession and power over the goods, will conceal or
Third, there is scant support in our cases for the proposition that there must be final judicial determination of the seller's entitlement before the buyer may be even temporarily deprived of possession of the purchased goods. On the contrary, it seems apparent that the seller with his own interest in the disputed merchandise would need to establish in any event only the probability that his case will succeed to warrant the bonded sequestration of the property pending outcome of the suit. Cf. Bell v. Burson, 402 U.S. 535 (1971); Ewing v. Mytinger & Casselberry, 339 U.S. 594 (1950). The issue at this stage of the proceeding concerns possession pending trial and turns on the existence of the debt, the lien, and the delinquency. These are ordinarily uncomplicated matters that lend themselves to documentary proof; and we think it comports with due process to permit the initial seizure on sworn ex parte documents, followed by the early opportunity to put the creditor to his proof. The nature of the issues at stake minimizes the risk that the
Fourth, we remain unconvinced that the impact on the debtor of deprivation of the household goods here in question overrides his inability to make the creditor whole for wrongful possession, the risk of destruction or alienation if notice and a prior hearing are supplied, and the low risk of a wrongful determination of possession through the procedures now employed.
Finally, the debtor may immediately have a full hearing on the matter of possession following the execution of the writ, thus cutting to a bare minimum the time of creditor- or court-supervised possession. The debtor in this case, who did not avail himself of this opportunity, can hardly expect that his argument on the severity of deprivation will carry much weight, and even assuming that there is real impact on the debtor from loss of these goods, pending the hearing on possession, his basic source of income is unimpaired.
The requirements of due process of law "are not technical, nor is any particular form of procedure necessary." Inland Empire Council v. Millis, 325 U.S. 697, 710 (1945). Due process of law guarantees "no particular form of procedure; it protects substantial rights." NLRB v. Mackay Co., 304 U.S. 333, 351 (1938). "The very nature of due process negates any concept of inflexible procedures universally applicable to every imaginable situation." Cafeteria Workers v. McElroy, 367 U.S. 886, 895 (1961); Stanley v. Illinois, 405 U.S. 645, 650 (1972). Considering the Louisiana procedure as a whole, we are convinced that the State has reached a constitutional accommodation of the respective interests of buyer and seller.
Petitioner asserts that his right to a hearing before his possession is in any way disturbed is nonetheless mandated by a long line of cases in this Court, culminating in Sniadach v. Family Finance Corp., 395 U.S. 337 (1969), and Fuentes v. Shevin, 407 U.S. 67 (1972). The pre-Sniadach cases are said by petitioner to hold that "the opportunity to be heard must precede any actual deprivation of private property."
In Sniadach v. Family Finance Corp., supra, it was said that McKay and like cases dealt with "[a] procedural rule that may satisfy due process for attachments in general" but one that would not "necessarily satisfy procedural due process in every case," nor one that "gives necessary protection to all property in its modern forms." 395 U. S., at 340. Sniadach involved the prejudgment garnishment of wages—"a specialized type of property presenting distinct problems in our economic system." Ibid. Because "[t]he leverage of the creditor on the wage earner is enormous" and because "prejudgment garnishment of the Wisconsin type may as a practical matter drive a wage-earning family to the wall," it was held that the Due Process Clause forbade such garnishment absent notice and prior hearing. Id., at 341-342. In Sniadach, the Court also observed that garnishment was subject to abuse by creditors without valid claims, a risk minimized by the nature of the security interest here at stake and the protections to the debtor offered by Louisiana procedure. Nor was it apparent in Sniadach with what speed the debtor could challenge the validity of the garnishment, and obviously the creditor's claim could not rest on the danger of destruction of wages, the property seized, since their availability to satisfy the debt remained within the power of the debtor who could simply leave his job. The suing creditor in Sniadach had no prior interest in the property attached, and the opinion did not purport to govern the typical case of
The Florida law under examination in Fuentes authorized repossession of the sold goods without judicial order, approval, or participation. A writ of replevin was employed, but it was issued by the court clerk. As the Florida law was perceived by this Court, "[t]here is no requirement that the applicant make a convincing showing before the seizure," 407 U. S., at 73-74; the law required only "the bare assertion of the party seeking the writ that he is entitled to one" as a condition to the clerk's issuance of the writ. Id., at 74. The Court also said that under the statute the defendant-buyer would "eventually" have an opportunity for a hearing, "as the defendant in the trial of the court action for repossession . . . ." Id., at 75. The Pennsylvania law was considered to be essentially the same as that
The Louisiana sequestration statute followed in this case mandates a considerably different procedure. A writ of sequestration is available to a mortgage or lien holder to forestall waste or alienation of the property, but, different from the Florida and Pennsylvania systems, bare, conclusory claims of ownership or lien will not suffice under the Louisiana statute. Article 3501 authorizes the writ "only when the nature of the claim and the amount thereof, if any, and the grounds relied upon for the issuance of the writ clearly appear from specific facts" shown by verified petition or affidavit. Moreover, in the parish where this case arose, the requisite showing must be made to a judge, and judicial authorization obtained. Mitchell was not at the unsupervised mercy of the creditor and court functionaries. The Louisiana law provides for judicial control of the process from beginning to end.
The risk of wrongful use of the procedure must also be judged in the context of the issues which are to be determined at that proceeding. In Florida and Pennsylvania property was only to be replevied in accord with state policy if it had been "wrongfully detained." This broad "fault" standard is inherently subject to factual determination and adversarial input. As in Bell v. Burson, where a driver's license was suspended without a prior hearing, when the suspension was premised on a fault standard, see Vlandis v. Kline, 412 U.S. 441, 446-447 (1973), in Fuentes this fault standard for replevin was thought ill-suited for preliminary ex parte determination. In Louisiana, on the other hand, the facts relevant to obtaining a writ of sequestration are narrowly confined. As we have indicated, documentary
Of course, as in Fuentes, consideration of the impact on the debtor remains. Under Louisiana procedure, however, the debtor, Mitchell, was not left in limbo to await a hearing that might or might not "eventually" occur, as the debtors were under the statutory schemes before the Court in Fuentes. Louisiana law expressly provides for an immediate hearing and dissolution of the writ "unless the plaintiff proves the grounds upon which the writ was issued." Art. 3506.
To summarize, the Louisiana system seeks to minimize the risk of error of a wrongful interim possession by the creditor. The system protects the debtor's interest in every conceivable way, except allowing him to have the property to start with, and this is done in pursuit of what we deem an acceptable arrangement pendente lite to put the property in the possession of the party who furnishes protection against loss or damage to the other pending trial on the merits.
The Court must be sensitive to the possible consequences, already foreseen in antiquity, of invalidating this state statute. Doing so might not increase private violence, but self-help repossession could easily lessen protections for the debtor. See, for example, Adams v. Southern California First National Bank, 492 F.2d 324 (CA9 1973).
APPENDIX TO OPINION OF THE COURT
STATUTES PROVISIONS OF THE LOUISIANA CODE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE
Art. 281. Certain articles not applicable to Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans
The provisions of Articles 282 through 286 do not apply to the clerk and the deputy clerks of the Civil District Court for the Parish of Orleans.
Art. 282. Acts which may be done by district court clerk
The clerk of a district court may:
(1) Grant an appeal and fix the return day thereof; fix the amount of the bond for an appeal, or for the issuance of a writ of attachment or of sequestration, or for the release of property seized under any writ, unless fixed by law; appoint an attorney at law to represent a nonresident, absent, incompetent, or unrepresented defendant; or dismiss without prejudice, on application of plaintiff, an action or proceeding in which no exception, answer, or intervention has been filed; and . . . .
(2) An order for the issuance of executory process, of a writ of attachment or of sequestration, or of garnishment process under a writ of fieri facias, attachment, or of sequestration; the release under bond of property seized under a writ of attachment or of sequestration; or to permit the filing of an intervention . . . .
Art. 325. Right of entry for execution; may require assistance of others if resistance offered or threatened
In the execution of a writ, mandate, order, or judgment of a court, the sheriff may enter on the lands, and into the residence or other building, owned or occupied by the judgment debtor or defendant. . . .
Art. 2373. Distribution of proceeds of sale
After deducting the costs, the sheriff shall first pay the amount due the seizing creditor, then the inferior mortgages, liens, and privileges on the property sold, and shall pay to the debtor whatever surplus may remain.
Art. 3501. Petition; affidavit; security
A writ of attachment or of sequestration shall issue only when the nature of the claim and the amount thereof, if any, and the grounds relied upon for the issuance of the writ clearly appear from specific facts shown by the petition verified by, or by the separate affidavit of, the petitioner, his counsel or agent.
The applicant shall furnish security as required by law for the payment of the damages the defendant may sustain when the writ is obtained wrongfully.
Art. 3504. Return of sheriff; inventory
The sheriff, after executing a writ of attachment or of sequestration, shall deliver to the clerk of the court from
Art. 3506. Dissolution of writ; damages
The defendant by contradictory motion may obtain the dissolution of a writ of attachment or of sequestration, unless the plaintiff proves the grounds upon which the writ was issued. If the writ of attachment or of sequestration is dissolved, the action shall then proceed as if no writ had been issued.
The court may allow damages for the wrongful issuance of a writ of attachment or of sequestration on a motion to dissolve, or on a reconventional demand. Attorney's fees for the services rendered in connection with the dissolution of the writ may be included as an element of damages whether the writ is dissolved on motion or after trial on the merits.
Art. 3507. Release of property by defendant; security
A defendant may obtain the release of the property seized under a writ of attachment or of sequestration by furnishing security for the satisfaction of any judgment which may be rendered against him.
Art. 3508. Amount of security for release of attached or sequestered property
The security for the release of property seized under a writ of attachment or of sequestration shall exceed by one-fourth the value of the property as determined by the court, or shall exceed by one-fourth the amount of the claim, whichever is the lesser.
Art. 3510. Necessity for judgment and execution
Except as provided in Article 3513 [perishables], a final judgment must be obtained in an action where a writ of attachment or of sequestration has issued before the property seized can be sold to satisfy the claim.
When one claims the ownership or right to possession of property, or a mortgage, lien, or privilege thereon, he may have the property seized under a writ of sequestration, if it is within the power of the defendant to conceal, dispose of, or waste the property or the revenues therefrom, or remove the property from the parish, during the pendency of the action.
Art. 3574. Plaintiff's security
An applicant for a writ of sequestration shall furnish security for an amount determined by the court to be sufficient to protect the defendant against any damage resulting from a wrongful issuance, unless security is dispensed with by law.
Art. 3576. Release of property under sequestration
If the defendant does not effect the release of property seized under a writ of sequestration, as permitted by Article 3507, within ten days of the seizure, the plaintiff may effect the release thereof by furnishing the security required by Article 3508.
MR. JUSTICE POWELL, concurring.
In sweeping language, Fuentes v. Shevin, 407 U.S. 67 (1972), enunciated the principle that the constitutional guarantee of procedural due process requires an adversary hearing before an individual may be temporarily deprived of any possessory interest in tangible personal property, however brief the dispossession and however slight his monetary interest in the property. The Court's decision today withdraws significantly from the full reach of that principle, and to this extent I think it fair to say that the Fuentes opinion is overruled.
I could have agreed that the Florida and Pennsylvania statutes in Fuentes were violative of due process because
The constitutional guarantee of procedural due process applies to governmental deprivation of a legitimate "property" or "liberty" interest within the meaning of the Fifth or Fourteenth Amendment. It requires that any such deprivation be accompanied by minimum procedural safeguards, including some form of notice and a hearing. Arnett v. Kennedy, ante, p. 164 (separate opinion of POWELL, J.); Board of Regents v. Roth, 408 U.S. 564 (1972); Perry v. Sindermann, 408 U.S. 593 (1972). In the present case, there can be no doubt that under state law both petitioner and respondent had property interests in the goods sought to be sequestered. Petitioner, as the vendee-debtor under an installment sales contract, had both title and possession of the goods subject to his contractual obligation to continue the installment payments. Respondent, as the vendor-creditor, had a vendor's lien on the goods as security for the unpaid balance.
The determination of what due process requires in a given context depends on a consideration of both the nature of the governmental function involved and the private interests affected. Cafeteria Workers v. McElroy, 367 U.S. 886, 895 (1961); Goldberg v. Kelly, 397 U.S. 254, 263-266 (1970). The governmental function in the instant case is to provide a reasonable and fair framework of rules which facilitate commercial transactions on a
Against this concern must be balanced the debtor's real interest in uninterrupted possession of the goods, especially if the sequestration proves to be unjustified. To be sure, repossession of certain items of personal property, even for a brief period, may cause significant inconvenience. But it can hardly be said that temporary deprivation of such property would necessarily place a debtor in a "brutal need" situation. Goldberg v. Kelly, supra; Arnett v. Kennedy, supra.
In my view, the constitutional guarantee of procedural due process is fully satisfied in cases of this kind where state law requires, as a precondition to invoking the State's aid to sequester property of a defaulting debtor, that the creditor furnish adequate security and make a specific factual showing before a neutral officer or magistrate of probable cause to believe that he is entitled to the relief requested. An opportunity for an adversary hearing must then be accorded promptly after sequestration to determine the merits of the controversy, with the burden of proof on the creditor.
The Louisiana statute sub judice satisfies these requirements and differs materially from the Florida and
By contrast, the Louisiana statute applicable in Orleans Parish authorizes issuance of a writ of sequestration "only when the nature of the claim and the amount thereof, if any, and the grounds relied upon . . . clearly appear from specific facts shown by the petition verified by, or by the separate affidavit of, the petitioner, his counsel or agent." La. Code Civ. Proc. Ann., Art. 3501 (1961). The Louisiana statute also provides for an immediate hearing, and the writ is dissolved "unless the
The Court's opinion makes these points well, and I need not elaborate them further. In brief, the Louisiana statute satisfies the essential prerequisites of procedural due process and represents a fairer balancing of the interests of the respective parties than the statutes in Fuentes. I therefore agree that the Louisiana procedure should be sustained against petitioner's challenge.
MR. JUSTICE STEWART reproves the Court for not adhering strictly to the doctrine of stare decisis. Post, at 634-636. To be sure, stare decisis promotes the important considerations of consistency and predictability in judicial decisions and represents a wise and appropriate policy in most instances. But that doctrine has never been thought to stand as an absolute bar to reconsideration of a prior decision, especially with respect to matters of constitutional interpretation.
Moreover, reconsideration is particularly appropriate in the present case. To the extent that the Fuentes opinion established a Procrustean rule of a prior adversary hearing, it marked a significant departure from past teachings as to the meaning of due process.
MR. JUSTICE STEWART, with whom MR. JUSTICE DOUGLAS and MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL concur, dissenting.
The Louisiana sequestration procedure now before us is remarkably similar to the statutory provisions at issue in Fuentes v. Shevin, 407 U.S. 67 (1972). In both cases the purchaser-in-possession of the property is not afforded any prior notice of the seizure or any opportunity to rebut the allegations of the vendor before the property is summarily taken from him by agents of the State. In both cases all that is required to support the issuance of the writ and seizure of the goods is the filing of a complaint and an affidavit containing pro forma allegations in support of the seller's purported entitlement to the goods in question. Since the procedure in both cases is completely ex parte, the state official charged with issuing the writ can do little more than determine the formal sufficiency of the plaintiff's allegations before ordering the state agents to take the goods from the defendant's possession.
The deprivation of property in this case is identical to that at issue in Fuentes, and the Court does not say otherwise. Thus, under Fuentes, due process of law permits Louisiana to effect this deprivation only after notice to the possessor and opportunity for a hearing. Because I would adhere to the holding of Fuentes, I dissent from the Court's opinion and judgment upholding Louisiana's ex parte sequestration procedure, which provides that the possessor of the property shall never have advance notice or a hearing of any kind.
As already noted, the deprivation of property in this case is identical to that in Fuentes. But the Court says that this is a different case for three reasons: (1) the plaintiff who seeks the seizure of the property must file an affidavit stating "specific facts" that justify the sequestration; (2) the state official who issues the writ of sequestration is a judge instead of a clerk of the court; and (3) the issues that govern the plaintiff's right to sequestration are limited to "the existence of a vendor's lien and the issue of default," and "[t]here is thus far less danger here that the seizure will be mistaken and a corresponding decrease in the utility of an adversary hearing," ante, at 618. The Court's opinion in Fuentes, however, explicitly rejected each of these factors as a ground for a difference in decision.
The first two purported distinctions relate solely to
The Louisiana affidavit requirement can be met by any plaintiff who fills in the blanks on the appropriate form documents and presents the completed forms to the court. Although the standardized form in this case called for somewhat more information than that required by the Florida and Pennsylvania statutes challenged in Fuentes, such ex parte allegations "are hardly a substitute for a prior hearing, for they test no more than the strength of the applicant's own belief in his rights. Since his private gain is at stake, the danger is all too great that his confidence in his cause will be misplaced. Lawyers and judges are familiar with the phenomenon of a party mistakenly but firmly convinced that his view of the facts and law will prevail, and therefore quite willing to risk the costs of litigation." 407 U. S., at 83.
Similarly, the fact that the official who signs the writ after the ex parte application is a judge instead of a court clerk is of no constitutional significance. Outside Orleans Parish, this same function is performed by the court clerk. There is nothing to suggest that the nature of this duty was at all changed when the law was amended to vest it in a judge rather than a clerk in this one parish. Indeed, the official comments declare that this statutory revision was intended to "mak[e] no change in the law."
The third distinction the Court finds between this case and Fuentes is equally insubstantial. The Court says the issues in this case are "particularly suited" to ex parte determination, in contrast to the issues in Fuentes, which were "inherently subject to factual determination and adversarial input," ante, at 617, 618. There is, however, absolutely no support for this purported distinction. In this case the Court states the factual issues as "the existence of a vendor's lien and the issue of default." Ante, at 618. The issues upon which replevin depended in Fuentes were no different; the creditor-vendor needed only to establish his security interest and the debtor-vendee's default. As MR. JUSTICE WHITE acknowledged in his Fuentes dissent, the essential issue at any hearing would be whether "there is reasonable basis for his [the creditor-vendor's] claim of default." 407 U. S., at 99-100. Thus, the Court produces this final attempted distinction out of whole cloth.
Moreover, Fuentes held that the relative complexity of the issues in dispute is not relevant to determining whether a prior hearing is required by due process. "The issues decisive of the ultimate right to continued possession, of course, may be quite simple. The simplicity of the issues might be relevant to the formality or scheduling of a prior hearing. But it certainly cannot undercut the right to a prior hearing of some kind." Id., at 87 n. 18 (citation omitted). Similarly, the probability of success
In short, this case is constitutionally indistinguishable from Fuentes v. Shevin, and the Court today has simply rejected the reasoning of that case and adopted instead the analysis of the Fuentes dissent. In light of all that has been written in Fuentes and in this case, it seems pointless to prolong the debate. Suffice it to say that I would reverse the judgment before us because the Louisiana sequestration procedure fails to comport with the requirements of due process of law.
I would add, however, a word of concern. It seems to me that unless we respect the constitutional decisions of this Court, we can hardly expect that others will do so. Cf. Roofing Wholesale Co. v. Palmer, 108 Ariz. 508, 502 P.2d 1327 (1972). A substantial departure from precedent can only be justified, I had thought, in the light of experience with the application of the rule to be abandoned or in the light of an altered historic environment.
The Fuentes decision was in a direct line of recent cases in this Court that have applied the procedural due process commands of the Fourteenth Amendment to prohibit governmental action that deprives a person of a statutory or contractual property interest with no advance notice or opportunity to be heard.
MR. JUSTICE BRENNAN is in agreement that Fuentes v. Shevin, 407 U.S. 67 (1972), requires reversal of the judgment of the Supreme Court of Louisiana.
"The impact of the initiation of judicial proceedings is often serious. Take the case of the grand jury. It returns an indictment against a man without a hearing. It does not determine his guilt; it only determines whether there is probable cause to believe he is guilty. But that determination is conclusive on the issue of probable cause. As a result the defendant can be arrested and held for trial. See Beavers v. Henkel, 194 U.S. 73, 85; Ex parte United States, 287 U.S. 241, 250. The impact of an indictment is on the reputation or liberty of a man. The same is true where a prosecutor files an information charging violations of the law. The harm to property and business can also be incalculable by the mere institution of proceedings. Yet it has never been held that the hand of government must be stayed until the courts have an opportunity to determine whether the government is justified in instituting suit in the courts. Discretion of any official may be abused. Yet it is not a requirement of due process that there be judicial inquiry before discretion can be exercised." 339 U. S., at 599.
"Strict application of the rules established for the issuance of conservatory writs has been uniformly required by the Courts in the past. It is implicit in those remedies that they should not be availed of unless the conditions which permit them exist; that is to say, it is a prerequisite to their issuance that proper grounds be alleged and sworn to." Id., at 653-654, 237 So. 2d, at 672. (Emphasis added.) Zion Mercantile Co. v. Pierce, 163 La. 477, 112 So. 371 (1927), upon which petitioner relies, is not to the contrary. The Louisiana court merely held there that it is not necessary to "file" papers requesting the writ with the clerk, or pay court costs, before the judge is empowered to issue the writ.
As revealed in the various studies and proposals, the principal question yet to be satisfactorily answered is the impact of prior notice and hearing on the price of credit, and, more particularly, of the mix of procedural requirements necessary to minimize the cost. The commentators are in the throes of debate, see, e. g., Symposium, Creditors' Rights, 47 S. Cal. L. Rev. 1-164 (1973), and basic questions remain unanswered. See generally Note, Self-Help Repossession; the Constitutional Attack, the Legislative Response, and the Economic Implications, 62 Geo. L. J. 273 (1973).
We indicate no view whatsoever on the desirability of one or more of the proposed reforms. The uncertainty evident in the current debate suggests caution in the adoption of an inflexible constitutional rule. Our holding in this case is limited to the constitutionality of the Louisiana sequestration procedures.
"There is [under the Florida statute] no requirement that the applicant make a convincing showing before the seizure that the goods are, in fact, `wrongfully detained.' Rather, Florida law automatically relies on the bare assertion of the party seeking the writ that he is entitled to one and allows a court clerk to issue the writ summarily. It requires only that the applicant file a complaint, initiating a court action for repossession and reciting in conclusory fashion that he is `lawfully entitled to the possession' of the property, and that he file a security bond . . . ." 407 U. S., at 73-74 (emphasis added).
The Court noted that the Pennsylvania statute required even less than the Florida statute, since the party seeking the writ "need not even formally allege that he is lawfully entitled to the property." Id., at 78. All that was required was the filing of an " `affidavit of the value of the property to be replevied.' " Ibid. Moreover, the Pennsylvania law did "not require that there ever be opportunity for a hearing on the merits of the conflicting claims to possession of the replevied property." Id., at 77.
In addition, the Court recognized in Sniadach that prejudgment garnishment of wages could as a practical matter "impose tremendous hardship" and "drive a wage-earning family to the wall." Id., at 340, 341-342. By contrast, there is no basis for assuming that sequestration of a debtor's goods would necessarily place him in such a "brutal need" situation.