Rice v. Rice/Opinion of the Court

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Opinion of the Court
Dissenting Opinion

United States Supreme Court

336 U.S. 674

Rice  v.  Rice

 Argued: Dec. 14, 1948. --- Decided: April 18, 1949

The question for decision here is whether the courts of Connecticut gave to a Nevada divorce decree the full faith and credit required by Art. IV, § 1 of the Constitution. Respondent brought the action in a Connecticut Superior Court, seeking a declaratory judgment that a decree of divorce entered against her and in favor of her husband, the late Herbert N. Rice, by a Nevada court is not entitled to full faith and credit because he was not domiciled in that state at the time the decree was entered. Petitioner, who had married Herbert N. Rice following his divorce, and the administrator of his estate were joined as defendants. The purpose of the action was to determine the widowhood status of the parties and to decide questions concerning the inheritance of the property of the decedent, who dies intestate.

After a full trial, judgment was entered in favor of respondent, and the court's finding that Herbert N. Rice had never established a bona fide domicile in Nevada was affirmed on appeal by the Supreme Court of Errors of Connecticut. We granted the petition for certiorari, 335 U.S. 842, 69 S.Ct. 65, to consider petitioner's contention that the Connecticut courts did not fairly discharge the duty of respect owed the Nevada decree under this Court's decisions in Williams v. North Carolina, 325 U.S. 226, 65 S.Ct. 1092, 89 L.Ed. 1577, 157 A.L.R. 1366, and Esenwein v. Commonwealth, 325 U.S. 279, 65 S.Ct. 1118, 89 L.Ed. 1608, 157 A.L.R. 1396.

Upon full consideration of the record, the opinion of the Supreme Court of Errors, and the argument of counsel, we have concluded that the Connecticut courts gave proper weight to the claims of power by the Nevada court, that the burden of proving that the decedent had not acquired a domicile in Nevada was placed upon respondent, that this issue of fact was fairly tried according to appropriate procedure, and that the findings of the Connecticut courts are amply supported in evidence. Our statement in the Esenwein opinion, 325 U.S. at page 281, 65 S.Ct. at page 1119, that 'It is not for us to retry the facts, and we cannot say that in reaching their conclusion the (Connecticut) courts did not have warrant in evidence and did not fairly weight the facts,' is appropriate here.

Sherrer v. Sherrer, 334 U.S. 343, 68 S.Ct. 1087, 1097, and Coe v. Coe, 334 U.S. 378, 68 S.Ct. 1094, 1097, decided by this Court last term, are not in point. No personal service was made upon respondent, nor did she in any way participate in the Nevada proceedings. She was not, therefore, precluded in the present action from challenging the finding of the Nevada court that Herbert N. Rice was, at the time of the divorce, domiciled in that state.


Mr. Justice BLACK, Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, and Mr. Justice RUTLEDGE dissent.

Mr. Justice JACKSON, dissenting.


This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).