For students of civil procedure, the names Pennoyer and Neff evoke these dry facts: In an initial suit, one J.H. Mitchell sued Neff in Oregon state court. Because Neff could not be found within Oregon, he was served by publication. Neff never appeared, and a default judgment was entered against him. To satisfy the judgment, Mitchell attached Neff's Oregon real estate. The property was sold at auction, and Pennoyer later acquired it. Nearly a decade later, Neff returned to Oregon and brought suit in federal court to evict Pennoyer from the land, claiming that the original judgment was invalid. The Supreme Court found for Neff in an opinion that has become a cornerstone of personal jurisdiction doctrine. Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714 (1877). Those familiar facts do not begin to tell the full story. Events surrounding Pennoyer v. Neff may have been tainted by fraud and deception.

Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 1992