Pennoyer v. Neff
95 U.S. 714

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U.S. Supreme Court

Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714 (1878)

Pennoyer v. Neff

95 U.S. 714

Syllabus

1. A statute of Oregon, after providing for service of summons upon parties or their representatives, personally or at their residence, declares that, when service cannot be thus made, and the defendant, after due diligence, cannot be found within the State, and

"that fact appears, by affidavit, to the satisfaction of the court or judge thereof, and it, in like manner, appears that a cause of action exists against the defendant, or that he is a proper party to an action relating to real property in the State, such court or judge may grant an order that the service be made by publication of summons . . . when the defendant is not a resident of the State, but has property therein, and the court has jurisdiction of the subject of the action,"

-- the order to designate a newspaper of the county where the action is commenced in which the publication shall be made -- and that proof of such publication shall be "the affidavit of the printer, or his foreman, or his principal clerk."

Held, that defects in the affidavit for the order can only be taken advantage of on appeal, or by some other direct proceeding, and cannot be urged to impeach the judgment collaterally, and that the provision as to proof of the publication is satisfied when the affidavit is made by the editor of the paper.

2. A personal judgment is without any validity if it be rendered by a State court in an action upon a money demand against a nonresident of the State who was served by a publication of summons, but upon whom no personal service of process within the State was made, and who did not appear; and no title to property passes by a sale under an execution issued upon such a judgment.

3. The State, having within her territory property of a nonresident, may hold and appropriate it to satisfy the claims of her citizens against him, and her tribunals may inquire into his obligations to the extent necessary to control the disposition of that property. If he has no property in the State, there is nothing upon which her tribunals can adjudicate.

4. Substituted service by publication, or in any other authorized form, is sufficient to inform a nonresident of the object of proceedings taken where

Page 95 U. S. 715

property is once brought under the control of the court by seizure or some equivalent act, but where the suit is brought to determine his personal rights and obligations, that is, where it is merely in personam, such service upon him is ineffectual for any purpose.

5. Process from the tribunals of one State cannot run into another State and summon a party there domiciled to respond to proceedings against him, and publication of process or of notice within the State in which the tribunal sits cannot create any greater obligation upon him to appear. Process sent to him out of the State, and process published within it, are equally unavailing in proceedings to establish his personal liability.

6. Except in cases affecting the personal status of the plaintiff, and in those wherein that mode of service may be considered to have been assented to in advance, the substituted service of process by publication allowed by the law of Oregon and by similar laws in other States where actions are brought against nonresidents is effectual only where, in connection with process against the person for commencing the action, property in the State is brought under the control of the court and subjected to its disposition by process adapted to that purpose, or where the judgment is sought as a means of reaching such property or affecting some interest therein; in other words, where the action is in the nature of a proceeding in rem.

7. Whilst the courts of the United States are not foreign tribunals in their relations to the State courts, they are tribunals of a different sovereignty, and are bound to give a judgment of a State court only the same faith and credit to which it is entitled in the courts of another State.

8. The term "due process of law," when applied to judicial proceedings, means a course of legal proceedings according to those rules and principles which have been established by our jurisprudence for the protection and enforcement of private rights. To give such proceedings any validity, there must be a competent tribunal to pass upon their subject matter, and if that involves merely a determination of the personal liability of the defendant, he must be brought within its jurisdiction by service of process within the State, or by his voluntary appearance.

This action was brought by Neff against Pennoyer for the recovery of a tract of land situated in Multnomah County, Oregon. Pennoyer, in his answer, denied Neff's title and right to possession, and set up a title in himself.

By consent of parties, and in pursuance of their written stipulation filed in the case, the cause was tried by the court, and a special verdict given, upon which judgment was rendered in favor of Neff; whereupon Pennoyer sued out this writ of error.

The parties respectively claimed title as follows: Neff under a patent issued to him by the United States, March 19,

Page 95 U. S. 716

1866; and Pennoyer by virtue of a sale made by the sheriff of said county, under an execution sued out upon a judgment against Neff, rendered Feb. 19, 1866, by the Circuit Court for said county, in an action wherein he was defendant and J. H. Mitchell was plaintiff. Neff was then a nonresident of Oregon.

In Mitchell v. Neff, jurisdiction of Neff was obtained by service of summons by publication. Pennoyer offered in evidence duly certified copies of the complaint, summons, order for publication of summons, affidavit of service by publication, and the judgment in that case, to the introduction of which papers the plaintiff objected because, 1, said judgment is in personam, and appears to have been given without the appearance of the defendant in the action or personal service of the summons upon him, and while he was a nonresident of the State, and is, therefore, void; 2, said judgment is not in rem, and therefore constitutes no basis of title in the defendant; 3, said copies of complaint, &c., do not show jurisdiction to give the judgment alleged, either in rem or personam; and, 4, it appears from said papers that no proof of service by publication was ever made, the affidavit thereof being made by the "editor" of the "Pacific Christian Advocate," and not by "the printer, or his foreman or principal clerk." The court admitted the evidence subject to the objections.

The finding of the court in regard to the facts bearing upon the asserted jurisdiction of the State court is as follows: --

That, on Nov. 13, 1865, Mitchell applied to said Circuit Court, upon his own affidavit of that date, for an order allowing the service of the summons in said action to be made upon Neff by publication thereof, whereupon said court made said order, in the words following:

"Now, at this day, comes the plaintiff in his proper person, and by his attorneys, Mitchell and Dolph, and files affidavit of plaintiff, and motion for an order of publication of summons, as follows, to wit:"

"Now comes the plaintiff, by his attorneys, and upon the affidavit of plaintiff, herewith filed, moves the court for an order of publication of summons against defendant, as required by law, he being a nonresident;"

"and it appearing to the satisfaction of the court that the defendant cannot, after due diligence, be

Page 95 U. S. 717

found in this State, and that he is a nonresident thereof, that his place of residence is unknown to plaintiff, and cannot, with reasonable diligence, be ascertained by him, and that the plaintiff has a cause of action of action against defendant, and that defendant has property in this county and State, it is ordered and adjudged by the court that service of the summons in this action be made by publication for six weeks successively in the 'Pacific Christian Advocate,' a weekly newspaper published in Multnomah County, Oregon, and this action is continued for such service."

That the affidavit of plaintiff, referred to in said order, is in the words following:

"I, J. H. Mitchell, being first duly sworn, say that the defendant, Marcus Neff, is a nonresident of this State; that he resides somewhere in the State of California, at what place affiant knows not, and he cannot be found in this State; that plaintiff has a just cause of action against defendant for a money demand on account; that this court has jurisdiction of such action; that the defendant has property in this county and State."

That the complaint in said action was verified and filed on Nov. 3, 1865, and contained facts tending to prove that, at that date, said Mitchell had a cause of action against said Neff for services as an attorney, performed "between Jan. 1, 1862, and May 15, 1863." That the entry of judgment in said action contained the following averments:

"And it appearing to the court that the defendant was, at the time of the commencement of this action, and ever since has been, a nonresident of this State; and it further appearing that he has property in this State, and that defendant had notice of the pendency of this action by publication of the summons for six successive weeks in the 'Pacific Christian Advocate,' a weekly newspaper of general circulation published in Multnomah County, State of Oregon, the last issue of which was more than twenty days before the first day of this term."

That the affidavit showing the publication of the summons in the "Advocate" aforesaid was made as stated therein by the "editor" of that paper. That said complaint, summons, affidavit of Mitchell and of the "editor" of the "Advocate" aforesaid, and entry of judgment, were in the judgment roll, made up by the clerk in the case, but the order for publication of the summons aforesaid was not placed in said roll

Page 95 U. S. 718

by said clerk, but remains on the files of said court; and that, when said court made said order for publication, and gave said judgment against Neff, the only evidence it had before it to prove the facts necessary to give it jurisdiction therefor, and particularly to authorize it to find and state that Neff's residence was unknown to Mitchell, and could not, with reasonable diligence, be ascertained by him, and that Neff had notice of the pendency of said action by the publication of the summons as aforesaid, was, so far as appears by the said roll and the records and files of the said court, the said complaint and affidavits of Mitchell and the editor of the "Advocate."

The statute of Oregon at the time of the commencement of the suit against Neff was as follows: --

"SECT. 55. When service of the summons cannot be made as prescribed in the last preceding section, and the defendant, after due diligence, cannot be found within the State, and when that fact appears, by affidavit, to the satisfaction of the court or judge thereof, or justice in an action in a justice's court, and it also appears that a cause of action exists against the defendant, or that he is a proper party to an action relating to real property in this State, such court or judge or justice may grant an order that the service be made by publication of summons in either of the following cases: . . ."

"3. When the defendant is not a resident of the State, but has property therein, and the court has jurisdiction of the subject of the action."

"SECT. 56. The order shall direct the publication to be made in a newspaper published in the county where the action is commenced, and, if no newspaper be published in the county, then in a newspaper to be designated as most likely to give notice to the person to be served, and for such length of time as may be deemed reasonable, not less than once a week for six weeks. In case of publication, the court or judge shall also direct a copy of the summons and complaint to be forthwith deposited in the post office, directed to the defendant, at his place of residence, unless it shall appear that such residence is neither known to the party making the application, nor can, with reasonable diligence, be ascertained by him. When publication is ordered, personal service of a copy of the summons and complaint out of the State shall be equivalent to publication and deposit in the post office. In either case, the defendant shall appear and answer by the first day of the term following the

Page 95 U. S. 719

expiration of the time prescribed in the order for publication; and, if he does not, judgment may be taken against him for want thereof. In case of personal service out of the State, the summons shall specify the time prescribed in the order for publication."

"SECT. 57. The defendant against whom publication is ordered, or his personal representatives, on application and sufficient cause shown, at any time before judgment, shall be allowed to defend the action; and the defendant against whom publication is ordered, or his representatives, may in like manner, upon good cause shown, and upon such terms as may be proper, be allowed to defend after judgment, and within one year after the entry of such judgment, on such terms as may be just; and, if the defence be successful, and the judgment or any part thereof have been collected or otherwise enforced, such restitution may thereupon be compelled as the court shall direct. But the title to property sold upon execution issued on such judgment to a purchaser in good faith shall not be thereby affected."

"SECT. 60. Proof of the service of summons shall be, in case of publication, the affidavit of the printer, or his foreman, or his principal clerk, showing the same."

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