West Virginia Law Review

Document Type



The notion that garnishment of public corporations is against public policy early took root in the minds of American judges. The history of the subject is an interesting commentary on the growth of our law. The policy objection, based principally on the avoidance of inconvenience to public administration, has been accorded wide judicial acceptance with only occasional reconsideration on the merits. Stare decisis and that characteristic, but for the most part commendable, conservatism of bench and bar have done their part to entrench the doctrine. Judicial revolt against it, which has occurred largely in cases involving municipalities, has made only modest and scattered inroads. The situation has plainly called for legislative action. And legislation of varying comprehensiveness is just what it has received in over half the states of the Union. The judicial conception of public policy proved too static. The rapid expansion of governmental activity has made the assumption of business and civil relations by public corporations a commonplace. The natural adjustment in the law is in the direction of attaching the usual incidents of responsibility to such activities and relations. In state after state legislation rendering the process of garnishment available against public corporations, often against the state itself, has cast the policy notion upon the juristic junk heap. The subject is of more than historical interest in West Virginia, where the judicial rule of immunity still obtains. That circumstance has evoked the present study. Possibly a broad investigation of the subject on the merits will prove useful for West Virginia purposes.



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