Harris v. Balk – Case Brief Summary
Summary of Harris v. Balk, 198 US 215, 25 S. Ct. 625, 49 L. Ed. 1023 (1905).
Harris (D) was indebted to Balk (P) for $180. Both were residents of North Carolina. Epstein, a resident of Baltimore, Maryland, asserted that Balk was indebted to him for $344. Harris visited Baltimore to purchase merchandise and while there Epstein obtained a nonresident writ of attachment against Harris, attaching the debt due from Harris to Balk. After the sheriff served him with the attachment papers Harris returned to North Carolina and prepared an affidavit stating that he owed $180 to Balk. Judgment was entered for Epstein and Harris paid him the $180.
Balk sued Harris in North Carolina for the $180 and Harris plead the action in Maryland as a bar to recovery. The trial court denied Harris’s defense and entered judgment in favor of Balk, holding that the Maryland court did not have jurisdiction to attach or garnish the debt due from Harris to Balk because Harris was only temporarily in Maryland.
- Is personal service within the forum state sufficient for the court to obtain jurisdiction over a nonresident?
- Can quasi in rem jurisdiction be exercised over debt or other intangible property?
Holding and Rule (Peckham)
- Yes. A court may obtain personal jurisdiction over a nonresident through personal service within the state in which that court resides.
- Yes. Quasi in rem jurisdiction is exercisable over intangible property such as debt.
The Supreme Court held in this case that personal service in the state in which the court resided was sufficient to grant that court personal jurisdiction over him. The situs of a debt travels with the debtor.
Epstein was entitled to sue Balk in Maryland to recover his debt and the municipal law of Maryland permitted the debt of the principal debtor (i.e. Harris’s debt to Balk) to be garnished. The court held that the judgment was therefore valid if the court of the State in which the garnishee was found obtained jurisdiction over him through service of process upon him within the State. The court held that posting notice on the court house door provided Harris with adequate notice of Epstein’s attachment proceeding against Balk.
Judgment for Balk reversed.
See Burnham v. Superior Court of California for a law school civil procedure case brief involving an issue of transient jurisdiction.