Filed June 25, 2014
Heard May 8, 2014
Appeal From Berkeley County. Appellate Case No. 2013-000171. Jack A. Landis, Family Court Judge.
Gregory Samuel Forman, of Gregory S. Forman, PC, of Charleston, for Appellant.
Mark Thomas Rainsford, of Pierce, Herns, Sloan & Wilson, LLC, of Charleston, for Respondent.
CURETON, A.J. HUFF and THOMAS, JJ., concur.
Peter Katzburg (Husband) appeals family court orders holding him in contempt, refusing to consider evidence, and requiring him to pay Loretta Katzburg (Wife) $704,861.76 pursuant to a foreign judgment registered in South Carolina. Husband argues the family court: (1) lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enforce the foreign judgment; (2) denied him due process; (3) erred in holding him in contempt; and (4) erred in refusing to consider an affidavit in his motion to reconsider. Additionally, Husband argues to the extent this court reverses the family court order, the award of attorneys' fees should be reversed as well. We vacate the family court's orders.
" Subject matter jurisdiction refers to the court's 'power to hear and determine cases of the general class to which the proceedings in question belong.'" Watson v. Watson, 319 S.C. 92, 93, 460 S.E.2d 394, 395 (1995) (quoting Dove v. Gold Kist, Inc., 314 S.C. 235, 442 S.E.2d 598 (1994)). " The jurisdiction of a court is determined by the sovereign creating it, and thus the question of the specific court in which an action is to be brought is determined in the first instance by reference to local law." Peterson v. Peterson, 333 S.C. 538, 548, 510 S.E.2d 426, 431 (Ct. App. 1998) (quotation marks and citation omitted). " A 'court of competent jurisdiction' must be 'competent' not only under the law of its own sovereign, but also by virtue of subject matter jurisdiction under the law of the forum in which New York law is being applied." Id. (quoting Barry E. v. Ingraham, 43 N.Y.2d 87, 400 N.Y.S.2d 772, 371 N.E.2d 492 (1977)). " Although we may utilize the law of another state in deciding a
case, we cannot use another state's law to confer subject matter jurisdiction upon a South Carolina court which, under the laws of this State, the court does not have." Id.
" A judgment of a court without subject matter jurisdiction is void and constitutes grounds for the court to vacate the judgment under Rule 60(b)(4)[, SCRCP]." Gainey v. Gainey, 382 S.C. 414, 424, 675 S.E.2d 792, 797 (Ct. App. 2009). " A void judgment is one that, from its inception, is a complete nullity and is without legal effect . . . ." Id. (quotation marks and citation omitted).
A court, lacking subject matter jurisdiction, cannot enforce its own decrees. It would serve no useful purposes to
[410 S.C. 188] determine issues submitted to the court since the jurisdiction as to subject matter can be raised at any time, and if the case were remanded to the family ...