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.
In an in rem action, which is an action brought directly against a property interest, a state can validly proceed to settle controversies with regard to rights or claims against tangible or intangible property within its borders, notwithstanding that jurisdiction over the defendant was never established. 1 Unlike jurisdiction in personam, a judgment entered by a court with in rem jurisdiction does not bind the defendant personally but determines the title to or status of the only property in question. 2 Proceedings brought to register title to land, 3 to condemn 4 or confiscate 5 real or personal property, or to administer a decedent’s estate 6 are typical in rem actions. Due process is satisfied by seizure of the property (the
res) and notice to all who have or may have interests therein. 7 Under prior case law, a court could acquire in rem jurisdiction over nonresidents by mere constructive service of process, 8 under the theory that property was always in possession of its owners and that seizure would afford them notice, because they would keep themselves apprized of the state of their property. It was held, however, that this fiction did not satisfy the requirements of due process, and, whatever the nature of the proceeding, that notice must be given in a manner that actually notifies the person being sought or that has a reasonable certainty of resulting in such notice. 9
Although the Court has now held
that all assertions of state-court jurisdiction must be evaluated according to the [‘minimum contacts’] standards set forth in International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 10 it does not appear that this will appreciably change the result for in rem jurisdiction over property.
[T]he presence of property in a State may bear on the existence of jurisdiction by providing contacts among the forum State, the defendant, and the litigation. For example, when claims to the property itself are the source of the underlying controversy between the plaintiff and the defendant, it would be unusual for the State where the property is located not to have jurisdiction. In such cases, the defendant’s claim to property located in the State would normally indicate that he expected to benefit from the State’s protection of his interest. The State’s strong interests in assuring the marketability of property within its borders and in providing a procedure for peaceful resolution of disputes about the possession of that property would also support jurisdiction, as would the likelihood that important records and witnesses will be found in the State. 11 Thus, for
true in rem actions, the old results are likely to still prevail.