Citation. 95 U.S. 714 (1877)
Brief Fact Summary.
Mitchell sued Plaintiff to recover unpaid legal fees and was compensated through Plaintiff’s property, which Mitchell sold to Defendant. Plaintiff sued Defendant to recover the property.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
Under the Due Process Clause, a state lacks in personam jurisdiction over nonresidents not personally served within the state.
Mitchell sued Neff (Plaintiff) for unpaid legal fees and served him constructively by putting an ad in an Oregon newspaper, consistent with Oregon law. Plaintiff owned property in Oregon but was a nonresident and did not see the notice. When Plaintiff did not answer the complaint, Mitchell obtained default judgment against Plaintiff. Through this judgment, Mitchell obtained Plaintiff’s property and then sold it to Pennoyer (Defendant). Eight years later, Plaintiff sued Defendant to recover the property, arguing that Mitchell’s judgment was invalid because service by publication was improper.
Does a state court have in personam jurisdiction over a nonresident who owns property within the state, but was served through publication in a local newspaper?
No, the state does not have in personam jurisdiction. The judgment of the lower court is affirmed.
The Court determined that the default judgment against Plaintiff in Mitchell’s lawsuit was invalid because it violated his right to due process. The lower court did not have in personam jurisdiction over Plaintiff because Plaintiff was a nonresident of the state and was not personally served while in the state. Additionally, the lower court did not have in rem jurisdiction over the Plaintiff because Mitchell’s lawsuit was not about the property.