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In rem and quasi in rem jurisdiction give a court power over property. The court’s power over the property can be used as leverage or as a means of satisfying a civil action against a defendant. The conditions that are required determine the court’s ability to exercise both types of jurisdiction of property.

Jurisdiction over Property

It may seem unreasonable that a court can assert power over a person’s property as a means of compelling a litigant to action, but it is perfectly legal. There are two types of jurisdiction over property, or power to control property, that a court can exercise. In rem jurisdiction gives the court power to control property when the court does not possess in personam, or personal, jurisdiction. Similar to in rem jurisdiction, quasi in rem jurisdiction gives power to a court to exercise control over a person’s property as a means to force a litigant to appear in court. Either way, both types of jurisdiction over property allow a court to take control of personal property to satisfy a court case.

In Rem Jurisdiction and Shaffer v. Heitner

In rem jurisdiction allows a court to take control over property in cases where it would not normally have this type of jurisdiction. To better understand this type of property jurisdiction, let’s review Shaffer v. Heitner (1977) as it relates to in rem jurisdiction and the control of stock.

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Heitner, a shareholder of Greyhound Corporation stock, sued the company and 28 of its officials. In the motion to sequester, or take something that is in controversy and surrender it to an unbiased party, Heitner asked the court to seize the parties’ property, including stock in the company. The court of original jurisdiction decided against the defendant on the basis that in rem jurisdiction did not apply because the corporation and its officials did not have sufficient enough contact with the state. In order to enforce in rem jurisdiction, five conditions must be met:

  • The property must be valuable.
  • The property must be located within the jurisdiction of the court.

  • The court must have actual possession of or solely control the property.
  • Procedural due process or adequate notice of the action
  • Substantive due process

In Shaffer v. Heitner, property jurisdiction could not be established. Using International Shoe v.

State of Washington and minimum contact rule, it was decided that Greyhound or its officials did not have a relationship with the State of Delaware sufficient enough to be considered under the forum state’s jurisdiction. Not satisfied with the court’s decision, Heitner moved the case to U.S. Appellate Court. In appeal, the lower court’s decision to rule for the plaintiff was upheld.

In effect, in rem jurisdiction was not applicable to the Delaware court because contact by the officials with the forum state could not be determined. Further, the suit was against the officials with Greyhound Corporation being party as a matter of the affiliation and not as a party to the suit. The suit had less to do with Greyhound as a company and more to do with Heitner’s issues with the officials.

The officials did not satisfy minimum contact with the forum state. For that, Greyhound could not be considered an affective property, and its location in Delaware could not be considered minimum contact. Therefore, power through the use of in rem jurisdiction could not be justified.In this case, we learned that in order to exercise power over property, the court must have jurisdiction over the property. There are cases when the court does not have jurisdiction over property. In the case of quasi in rem jurisdiction, a court is permitted to exercise power over property in certain instances.

Quasi in Rem Jurisdiction and Court Appearances

Quasi in rem jurisdiction is the court’s power to control property in an attempt to have a litigant appear in court. What happens when two parties are involved in a boating accident in the State of Florida? The plaintiff is a resident of Florida, while the defendant is a resident of Georgia. The State of Florida would have no personal jurisdiction over the defendant, making it very difficult to bring the defendant to court. However, if the defendant owns a winter home in Florida, the state can exercise quasi in rem jurisdiction on the property to satisfy the lawsuit brought against him by the plaintiff. This is possible when the following six conditions are met:

  • Property must be of value
  • Property must be within the state
  • Litigant must own the property
  • Court must control the property
  • Procedural due process
  • Substantive due process

Unlike in rem jurisdiction, where the state has an interest in the property, substantial due process in quasi in rem means there must be a degree of contact between the litigant and the state as defined by the International Shoe v.

State of Washington minimum contact rule. In our example, owning a home in Florida established a relationship between the defendant and the forum state. The defendant could lose his property if he does not appear in court to answer to the civil action against him.

Lesson Summary

To sum things up, there are two types of property jurisdiction a state has power to exercise over property: in rem jurisdiction and quasi in rem jurisdiction. In rem jurisdiction gives the court power to control property when the court does not possess in personam, or personal, jurisdiction. Quasi in rem jurisdiction is the court’s power to control property in an attempt to have a litigant appear in court.In our first case, Shaffer v.

Heitner, we learned that in rem jurisdiction required that the defendant parties have minimum contact with the state in order to control property. We also learned that having a corporate headquarters is not sufficient enough to establish contact if the suit is not related to the company but rather its employees.

Learning Outcomes

Watching this lesson should give you the ability to:

  • Differentiate between in rem and quasi in rem jurisdiction
  • List the conditions necessary for in rem and quasi in rem jurisdiction
  • Understand why the court did not have in rem jurisdiction in Shaffer v. Heitner

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