Arndt v. Griggs

In Arndt v. Griggs, 134 U.S. 316 (1890), the plaintiffs were in possession, under tax deeds it is true, but having a prima facie valid title which they sought to vindicate against the former owners. It was held directly that a State may provide by statute that the title to real estate within its limits shall be settled and determined by a suit in which a non-resident defendant is brought into court by publication. It appeared in that case that a suit had been begun by a party alleging that he was the owner and in possession of the land in controversy, by virtue of certain tax deeds, against defendants claiming to have some title or interest in the lands by patent from the United States, which title, as was alleged, was divested by the tax deeds, and was unjust, inequitable and a cloud upon plaintiff's title, and that the suit was brought for the purpose of quieting such title. The defendants were brought in by publication, and a decree entered in favor of plaintiff quieting his title. The question was whether that decree was a bar to an action in ejectment between the grantees of the respective parties to the proceedings to quiet title. In other words, as put by the court: "Has a State the power to provide by statute that the title to real estate within its limits shall be settled and determined by a suit in which the defendant, being a non-resident, is brought into court only by publication?" The question was answered in the affirmative. In delivering the opinion of the court Mr. Justice Brewer observed: "The question is not what a court of equity, by virtue of its general powers and in the absence of a statute, might do, but it is, what jurisdiction has a State over titles to real estate within its limits, and what jurisdiction may it give by statute to its own courts, to determine the validity and extent of the claims of non-residents to such real estate? If a State has no power to bring a non-resident into its courts for any purpose by publication, it is impotent to perfect the titles of real estate within its limits held by its own citizens; and a cloud cast upon such title by a claim of a non-resident will remain for all time a cloud, unless such non-resident shall voluntarily come into its courts for the purpose of having it adjudicated. But no such imperfections attend the sovereignty of the State. It has control over property within its limits; and the condition of ownership of real estate therein, whether the owner be stranger or citizen, is subjection to its rules concerning the holding, the transfer, liability to obligations, private or public, and the modes of establishing titles thereto. It cannot bring the person of a non-resident within its limits - its process goes not out beyond its borders - but it may determine the extent of his title to real estate within its limits; and for the purpose of such determination may provide any reasonable method of imparting notice. . . . Mortgage liens, mechanics' liens, material-men's liens and other liens are foreclosed against non-resident defendants upon service by publication only. Lands of non-resident defendants are attached and sold to pay their debts; and indeed, almost any kind of action may be instituted and maintained against non-residents to the extent of any interest in property they may have in Kansas, and the jurisdiction to hear and determine in this kind of cases may be obtained wholly and entirely by publication."