Amdt14.S1.5.4.3 Defenses

Fourteenth Amendment, Section 1:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

Just as a state may condition the right to institute litigation, so may it establish terms for the interposition of certain defenses. It may validly provide that one sued in a possessory action cannot bring an action to try title until after judgment is rendered and after he has paid that judgment. 1 A state may limit the defense in an action to evict tenants for nonpayment of rent to the issue of payment and leave the tenants to other remedial actions at law on a claim that the landlord had failed to maintain the premises. 2 A state may also provide that the doctrines of contributory negligence, assumption of risk, and fellow servant do not bar recovery in certain employment-related accidents. No person has a vested right in such defenses. 3 Similarly, a nonresident defendant in a suit begun by foreign attachment, even though he has no resources or credit other than the property attached, cannot challenge the validity of a statute which requires him to give bail or security for the discharge of the seized property before permitting him an opportunity to appear and defend. 4

Footnotes

  1.  Grant Timber & Mfg. Co. v. Gray, 236 U.S. 133 (1915).
  2.  Lindsey v. Normet, 405 U.S. 56, 64-69 (1972). See also Bianchi v. Morales, 262 U.S. 170 (1923) (upholding mortgage law providing for summary foreclosure of a mortgage without allowing any defense except payment).
  3.  Bowersock v. Smith, 243 U.S. 29, 34 (1917); Chicago, R.I. & P. Ry. v. Cole, 251 U.S. 54, 55 (1919); Herron v. Southern Pacific Co., 283 U.S. 91 (1931). See also Martinez v. California, 444 U.S. 277, 280-83 (1980) (state interest in fashioning its own tort law permits it to provide immunity defenses for its employees and thus defeat recovery).
  4.  Ownbey v. Morgan, 256 U.S. 94 (1921).