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Civil Procedure Case Brief # 3

Title and Citation: Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714 (1877)



Identities of Parties: (P) Pennoyer bought (D) Neff land from Mitchell (his former
lawyer).

Procedural History: D sued P to recover his land in the Circuit Court, where it
ruled in favor of the D. The P then appealed the decision of the Circuit Court to the
US Supreme Court by petition for write of error.

Facts: Mitchell the D formed lawyer, sued him in Oregon state court for unpaid legal
fees. The D was not a resident of Oregon at that time, and was not personally served
with the process. Mitchell noticed Neff of the suit by publishing the summons in the
Pacific Christian Advocate (weekly newspaper) but without actually mailing the
summons to the D. The summons was published for 6 straight weeks. The D failed
to respond suit/ failed to resist the suit, so the court entered a default judgment
against him. After the default judgment the D acquired 300 acres of land in Oregon,
the sheriff seized and sold the land in order to satisfy the judgment against the D.
Land was bought by P (received a deed of evidence title) however, after the sale the
D discovered what happened and bought suit against the P to recover the land.
Circuit Court (federal court) ruled in favor of D, and P appealed decision.

Issue(s): (A) Can judgments made against non-residents who fail to appear in court
be valid/sustained by default judgments where service of process is accomplished
solely through publication (constructive service)? (B) Can seizure of property
purchased after the judgment is entered may be bases for a court to exercise
personal jurisdiction over the party?

Holding and Rule: (A) No, the personal judgment recovered in state court of
Oregon against the P was without legitimacy. When suit is against a person,
constructive service through a publication upon a non-resident is ineffective. (B) No,
person is subject to jurisdiction of a court unless, he appears in the court, is found
within the state, is a resident of the state, or has property in the state at the
time the jurisdiction attached.

Courts Reasoning: No state may exercise jurisdiction over a person or their
property residing outside its territory. The property was not attached or in any way
brought under jurisdiction of the court, because at the time of the original suit D did
not own property, so it cant be a basis for the state courts jurisdiction. Also, D was
not personally served with the process; constructive process in form of a newspaper
publication may be service for resident but not for nonresident. The trial court had
no jurisdiction over Neff in the original suit therefore D retains title to property.

Judgment and Order: Decision affirmed.