Garnishment Order Based on an Original Judgment Entered in a Maryland Court Sufficient to Garnish Wages of a Non-resident.

In Daniel M. Mensah v. MCT Federal Credit Union, No. 54, Sept. Term, 2015 (Opinion by Battaglia, J.), the Maryland Court of Appeals, Maryland’s highest court, addressed an issue of first impression regarding wage garnishments.  The question before the Court was as follows:

“The sole issue before us involves judgment enforcement, i.e. whether the District Court in its continuing and ancillary jurisdiction could order wages earned outside of Maryland by a non-resident judgment debtor to be subject to garnishment served upon an employer with continuous and systematic business in Maryland.  We shall answer yes to this question.”

Daniel M. Mensah, while living in Maryland, in 2006, opened a personal line of credit as well as a credit card account with MCT Federal Credit Union (“MCT”). Mr. Mensah, over the next several years, accumulated debt on both the credit card and on the line of credit. MCT filed two complaints in 2010 against Mr. Mensah in the District Court of Maryland for Montgomery County to collect upon the delinquent balances on those accounts.  By the time the cases were filed, Mr. Mensah had moved to Texas.  He was served process by way of substitute service; he failed to answer the complaints of MCT; and it was awarded default judgments, which were not appealed.

Subsequent to the entry of the judgments, MCT secured two writs of garnishment from the Maryland District Court.  The writs were served upon the resident agent of Mr. Mensah’s employer, BASF, and its payroll department in New Jersey.  BASF did not contest the writs but Mensah moved to quash them under the theory that his wages earned solely in Texas were not subject to garnishment in Maryland.  Both the District Court and the Montgomery County Circuit Court disagreed.  Mensah then petitioned the Maryland Court of Appeals for certiorari.

The opinion of the Court differentiated between an enrolled foreign judgment and one entered when a court has original, continuing and ancillary jurisdiction over a judgment debtor.  In the case of the former, a judgment obtained in a jurisdiction other than Maryland and enrolled in Maryland pursuant to the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act (“UEFJA”), is not a “continuing and ancillary” matter.   Such foreign enrolled judgments are subject to “defenses in enforcement”, unlike judgments originally obtained in Maryland.  See, Livingston v. Naylor, 173 Md. App. 488, 220 A.2d 34 (2007).  The Court cited, without discussion, “BASF’s business presence in Maryland” and also “its assent to the wage garnishments” of Mr. Mensah as indications of the presence of fair play and substantial justice, discussed in the Livington case, in permitting the wage garnishments.

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