130 N.W.2d 180

ZYWICKE and others, Respondents, v. BROGLI, Appellant.

Supreme Court of Wisconsin.September 1, 1964 —
September 29, 1964.

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APPEAL from an order of the circuit court for Milwaukee county: ELMER W. ROLLER, Circuit Judge. Reversed.

On February 5, 1963, judgment was entered and docketed against the defendant for injuries resulting from the negligent

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operation of a motor vehicle. The judgment was in favor of the plaintiff, Beatrice Zywicke, in the amount of $35, in favor of the plaintiff, Robert L. Zywicke, in the amount of $900, and in favor of the plaintiff, Motors Insurance Corporation, in the amount of $510.

On February 4, 1963, petitioner was adjudged a bankrupt in the United States district court for the Eastern district of Wisconsin and listed the above-mentioned judgment in his schedules in bankruptcy. Discharge in bankruptcy was duly granted on August 21, 1963, wherein it was ordered that petitioner be discharged from all provable debts except such as are excepted from discharge under the Bankruptcy Act.

Subsequent to said discharge, Mr. Brogli petitioned the trial court to have the judgment satisfied of record pursuant to the provisions of sec. 270.91(2), Stats. The court, in refusing this petition, noted in its memorandum decision that Mr. Brogli’s driving privileges had been revoked pursuant to sec. 344.25 (the Financial Responsibility Law), and also that the defendant stated that the purpose of the petition was to secure a restoration of his driving privileges.

Since sec. 344.26(2), Stats., provides that a discharge in bankruptcy shall not relieve the judgment debtor from the revocation of his driving privileges, the trial court concluded that to grant the petition would be to proceed at cross purposes to the legislative intent that a discharge in bankruptcy shall not relieve the debtor from the revocation. The trial court held that a judgment for damages resulting from a motor vehicle accident is therefore, by reason of the specific provision of sub. (2) of sec. 344.26, an exception to the provisions of sec. 270.91(2).

Statutes Involved.
“270.91(2) . . . If the court is so satisfied that such order of discharge in bankruptcy was duly obtained and

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that the name and address of such judgment creditor was included in such schedules of bankruptcy, then the court shall declare such judgment to be satisfied and direct satisfaction thereof to be entered on the docket.”

“344.26(2) A discharge in bankruptcy following the rendering of any such judgment does not relieve the judgment debtor from any of the requirements of this section.”

For the appellant there was a brief and oral argument b Henry L. Arnold of Milwaukee.

For the respondents there was a brief by Ben G. Slater
and Ralph K. Rosenbaum, Jr., both of Milwaukee, an Homer Lynn of Saukville, and oral argument by Mr. Rosenbaum.

GORDON, J.

When a judgment has been discharged in bankruptcy, the debtor is entitled to a satisfaction of such judgment under sec. 270.91(2), Stats. The debtor has a right to a satisfaction for reasons which are wholly extraneous to the financial-responsibility sections of the Motor Vehicle Code. An important reason for granting the satisfaction is that a discharged debtor might be adversely affected by the existence of an unsatisfied judgment with reference to his prospects of employment or of obtaining credit.

We are of the opinion that the defendant was entitled to a satisfaction of this judgment. If that were his sole motivation in taking this appeal, he has won a complete victory; however, if he also anticipated that he would thereby recover his driving privileges as a matter of right, his victory will prove to be an illusory one.

In his carefully composed memorandum opinion, the learned trial judge assumed that the commissioner of motor vehicles would not be able to go behind the satisfaction of the judgment to ascertain that such satisfaction came

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about as a result of a discharge in bankruptcy. If this assumption were correct, the horns of the dilemma would be sharp. On the one side would be the statutory direction that a discharged judgment be satisfied. Sec. 270.91(2), Stats. On the other side would be the clear legislative mandate that so far as motor vehicle financial responsibility is concerned, a judgment debtor is not to be relieved by a discharge in bankruptcy. Sec. 344.26(2).

However, we conclude that the commissioner is as free to look behind the satisfaction as he is to look at the face of the instrument. If, as in the instant case, the satisfaction is found to stem from a discharge in bankruptcy, the commissioner would be entitled to heed sec. 344.26(2), Stats., and to deny the request for reinstatement of the driving license.

The right of the commissioner to delve behind the satisfaction is suggested by sec. 343.14(2)(f), Stats., which provides that the commissioner can require “such further information as the department may reasonably require to enable it to determine whether the applicant is by law entitled to the license applied for.” In addition, in considering the reinstatement of operating privileges which were removed under ch. 344, Stats., sec. 344.09 provides that the commissioner must be “satisfied.” It would thus appear that the commissioner would not be required blindly to reinstate a license when a judgment has been satisfied if the commissioner learns that the satisfaction resulted from a discharge in bankruptcy.

We suggest that a trial judge who is confronted with a demand for a satisfaction of a bankruptcy-discharged judgment would be warranted in ordering that the satisfaction declare on its face that it is based upon a discharge in bankruptcy. This would alert the commissioner so as to

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enable him to carry out the mandate of sec. 344.26(2), Stats. However, as noted earlier, the commissioner would be entitled to apply such statutory mandate if the information reached him in some other manner. In other words, sec. 344.26(2) is to be enforced even though a satisfaction is granted under sec. 270.91(2). The two statutes are independent and not in pari materia. The two statutes may fully coexist notwithstanding a seeming contradiction. On scrutiny, we are persuaded that there is no conflict between them.

By the Court. — Order reversed.

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