• November 15, 2011

In one of my first Civil Procedure classes as a 1L at William Mitchell, I learned about the ever-present, and ever-important, legal requirement of personal jurisdiction.  After plodding through the cases that most lawyers immediately forgot after law school (Pennoyer v. Neff, anyone?), my class came to the gold standards in the personal jurisdiction world: International Shoe Co. v. Washington and Shaffer v. Heitner.

A recent Minnesota Court of Appeals decision addressed whether the due process standard outlined in International Shoe, requiring that asserting jurisdiction over a person must not offend “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice,” applies cases asserting in rem jurisdiction. At last, Minnesota has a bright line rule.

Gary Eldon Lea sought a declaratory judgment against the State of New Hampshire to determine the legal owner of a 1775 money printing plate that Lea was attempting to auction. New Hampshire made a motion to dismiss for lack of in rem jurisdiction and cited Shaffer v. Heitner which the district court in Fillmore County denied.  Interestingly, the court’s decision seemed to hang on whether the language in Shaffer that “all assertions of state-court jurisdiction must be evaluated according to the standards set forth in International Shoe and its progeny” was binding or non-binding dicta when it comes to in rem jurisdiction.

In the end, the Court of Appeals reversed and remanded the case and definitively held that the Shoe test for fairness and substantial justice must be met to have proper jurisdiction in all matters: in personam, true in rem, and quasi in rem.

Thus, Minnesota has drawn a clear line: you need to play fair and not offend traditional notions of justice regardless of the type of jurisdiction you’re trying to assert.  How stereotypically Minnesota nice.

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