Harris v. Balk


Harris v. Balk

Infobox SCOTUS case
Litigants = Harris v. Balk
ArgueDate = April 4
ArgueYear = 1905
DecideDate = May 1
DecideYear = 1905
FullName = Isaac N. Harris, plaintiff in error, v. B. Balk
USVol = 198
USPage = 215
Citation =
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SCOTUS = 1903-1906
Majority = Peckham
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Overruled = "Shaffer v. Heitner", ussc|433|186|1977

"Harris v. Balk", ussc|198|215|1905 was a United States Supreme Court case that exemplified the bizarre types of jurisdiction state courts (and therefore plaintiffs) could assert through quasi in rem actions before "International Shoe's" "minimum contacts" test replaced Pennoyer's principles of "power and notice".cite book |title=Civil Procedure |edition=6th edition |last=Yeazell |first=Stephen C. |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=2004 |publisher=Aspen Publishers |location=New York |isbn=0735545111 |pages=84 ]

This case involved three parties: Harris, Balk, and Epstein. Harris owed Balk money and Balk owed Epstein money. Harris and Balk lived in North Carolina while Epstein lived in Maryland. Harris traveled to Maryland and, while he was there, Epstein attached the debt Harris owed to Balk to obtain jurisdiction over Balk (in a suit to try to collect the debt Balk owed to him). Epstein obtained a judgment against Balk which directed Harris to pay Epstein instead of Balk.

To understand the principles in this case, one must understand a little about quasi in rem actions and jurisdictional principles at the time. At that time, a state court could not assert jurisdiction (in personam jurisdiction) over someone who was not physically served process in that state. However if a defendant, on whom in personam jurisdiction was unable to be asserted, owned property in a state, a plaintiff could "attach" whatever property they owned to the action. Such an action was labeled quasi-in rem and, when this occurred, state courts were permitted to assert jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant on any matter with the limitation that any remedy be limited to involving only the attached property.

Applying the above principles to this case, debt (money owed to someone) is considered actual property of the creditor. Importantly, at the time of Harris v. Balk debt was considered to "follow the debtor" (i.e. Wherever a debtor went, he brought along the debt he owed to his creditor.) When Harris entered Maryland, he "brought along" the debt he owed to Balk (Balk's property). This enabled Epstein to attach it in a quasi-in rem action and obtain jurisdiction over Balk.

The principles allowing the Maryland state court to assert jurisdiction in this case were overturned by the Supreme Court case, "Shaffer v. Heitner".

ee also

*List of United States Supreme Court cases, volume 198

References


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