Civil Procedure. In rem jurisdiction provides the courts of the forum state to adjudicate claims regarding property (real or personal) that is located within that forum state. In rem jurisdiction is distinct from personal and quasi in rem jurisdiction because, while the latter support claims brought against a defendant for his or her personal obligations, in rem jurisdiction focuses on property within the forum and can be used only to adjudicate claims regarding such property.
The basis of in rem jurisdiction is the presence of the subject property within the territorial jurisdiction of the forum state. As Chief Justice Marshall recognized more than two centuries ago, “It is repugnant to every idea of proceeding in rem to act against a thing which is not in the power of the sovereign under whose authority the court proceeds[.]” Rose v. Himely, 8 U.S. 241, 277 (1807).
The rationale for this principle is straightforward: in rem jurisdiction is predicated upon the state’s power over property, and a judgment in rem “affects the interests of all persons” in the property, wherever they may be located, to the exclusion of the jurisdiction of the other states. A court’s in rem jurisdiction is thus limited by the extent of its power and by the coordinate authority of sister states.