''In rem'' jurisdiction ("power about or against 'the thing) is a legal term describing the power a court may exercise over property (either
real Real may refer to: * Reality Reality is the sum or aggregate of all that is real or existent within a system, as opposed to that which is only Object of the mind, imaginary. The term is also used to refer to the ontological status of things, ind ...
or personal) or a "status" against a person over whom the court does not have ''
in personam ''In personam'' is a Latin phrase meaning "against a particular person". In a lawsuit in which the case is against a specific individual, that person must be served with a summons and complaint (E&W known as Particulars of Claim (CPR 1999) to give ...
'' jurisdiction. Jurisdiction ''in rem'' assumes the property or status is the primary object of the action, rather than personal liabilities not necessarily associated with the property.

United States

Within the U.S. federal court system, jurisdiction ''in rem'' typically refers to the power a federal court may exercise over large items of immoveable property, or real property, located within the court's jurisdiction. The most frequent circumstance in which this occurs in the Anglo-American legal system is when a suit is brought in
admiralty law Admiralty law or maritime law is a body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influen ...
against a vessel to satisfy debts arising from the operation or use of that vessel. Within the American state court systems, jurisdiction ''in rem'' may refer to the power the state court may exercise over real property or personal property or a person's
marital status Civil status, or marital status, are the distinct options that describe a person's relationship with a significant other Significant other (SO) is colloquially Colloquialism or colloquial language is the style (sociolinguistics), linguistic ...
. State courts have the power to determine legal ownership of any real or personal property within the state's boundaries. A right ''in rem'' or a judgment ''in rem'' binds the world as opposed to rights and judgments ''
inter partes Inter may refer to: Association football clubs * Inter Milan Football Club Internazionale Milano, commonly referred to as Internazionale () or simply Inter, and known as Inter Milan outside Italy, is an Italian Italian may refer to: * Anyth ...
'' which only bind those involved in their creation. Originally, the notion of ''in rem'' jurisdiction arose in situations in which property was identified but the owner was unknown. Courts fell into the practice of styling a case not as "John Doe, Unknown owner of (Property)", but as just "Ex Parte (property)" or perhaps the awkward "State v. (Property)", usually followed by a notice by publication seeking claimants to title to the property; see
examples Example may refer to: * ''exempli gratia'' (e.g.), usually read out in English as "for example" * .example, reserved as a domain name that may not be installed as a top-level domain of the Internet ** example.com, example.net, example.org, exa ...
below. This last style is awkward because in law, only a
person A person (plural people or persons) is a being that has certain capacities or attributes such as reason Reason is the capacity of consciously applying logic Logic is an interdisciplinary field which studies truth and reasoning Reason is ...
may be a party to a judicial proceeding – hence the more common ''
in personam ''In personam'' is a Latin phrase meaning "against a particular person". In a lawsuit in which the case is against a specific individual, that person must be served with a summons and complaint (E&W known as Particulars of Claim (CPR 1999) to give ...
'' style – and a non-person would at least have to have a guardian appointed to represent its interests, or those of the unknown owner. The use of this kind of jurisdiction in
asset forfeiture In financial accountancy, financial accounting, an asset is any resource owned or controlled by a business or an economic entity. It is anything (tangible or intangible) that can be used to produce positive economic value. Assets represent value ...
cases is controversial because it has been increasingly used in situations where the party in possession is known, which by historical
common law In law, common law (also known as judicial precedent or judge-made law, or case law Case law is the collection of past legal decisions written by courts and similar tribunal A tribunal, generally, is any person or institution with authority ...
standards would make him the presumptive owner, and yet the prosecution and court presumes he is not the owner and proceeds accordingly. This kind of process has been used to seize large sums of cash from persons who are presumed to have obtained the money unlawfully because of the large amount, often in situations where the person could prove he was in lawful possession of it, but was forced to spend more on legal fees to do so than the amount of money forfeited.


Some examples of ''in rem'' cases:


Canadian examples of ''in rem'' tend to involve
admiralty law Admiralty law or maritime law is a body of law Law is a system A system is a group of Interaction, interacting or interrelated elements that act according to a set of rules to form a unified whole. A system, surrounded and influen ...
. The Canadian Parliament has exclusive authority to legislate for navigation and shipping under section 91(10) of the ''Constitution Act, 1867''. The ''Federal Courts Act'' gives the
Federal Court Federal court may refer to: United States * Federal judiciary of the United States ** United States district court, a particular federal court Elsewhere * Federal Court of Australia * Federal courts of Brazil * Federal Court (Canada) * Federal Cou ...
jurisdiction over these matters, and it may be exercised ''in rem'' against the ship, aircraft or other property that is the subject of the action, or against any proceeds from its sale that have been paid into court. The jurisdiction of the Federal Court in admiralty matters applies to all ships and aircraft, regardless if the owners are Canadian, and to claims arising on any naturally or artificially navigable waters, and in the case of salvage, cargo and wrecks found on the shores. Under the Act, the jurisdiction of the Federal Court under section 22 may be exercised ''in personam'' as well, except in cases of collisions between ships. In that case, section 43(4) of the ''Federal Courts Act'' applies. It states actions may only be commenced in Federal Court if the defendant has a residence or place of business in Canada, the cause of action arose in Canadian waters, or the parties have agreed the Federal Court is to have jurisdiction. This does not apply in counterclaims or actions in which some other action has already been commenced in the Federal Court. In some of the bases of jurisdiction listed under section 22 of the Act, the right to exercise jurisdiction in rem is limited to situations in which the beneficial owner of the subject of the action when the matter is commenced was the beneficial owner when the cause of action arose. Section 43(7) of the ''Federal Courts Act'' creates an exception where actions ''in rem'' cannot be commenced. The section states no action can be commenced in Canada against any warship, coast-guard ship or police vessel; any ship owned or operated by Canada or a province, or any cargo laden thereon, where the ship is engaged on government service; or any ship owned or operated by a sovereign power other than Canada, or any cargo laden thereon, with respect to any claim where, at the time the claim arises or the action is commenced, the ship is being used exclusively for non-commercial governmental purposes. A warrant may be issued for the arrest of a foreign ship, provided the ship is within the territorial jurisdiction of the court. An action in rem does not necessarily result in a judgment ''in rem'' as the owner of the ship may enter a personal appearance and thus submit to the jurisdiction of the court. This is usually the case when the plaintiff threatens to arrest the ''res'' and the owner arranges for bail or other security to be given. When the owner enters an appearance the action ''in rem'' becomes one ''in personam'' and the defendant’s liability is not limited to the value of the ''res'' or the amount of the bail or security he or she has given. However, a plaintiff, having arrested a vessel, is entitled to security in an amount sufficient to cover the reasonably arguable best case, together with interest and costs, capped at the value of the wrongdoing vessel. The important remedies available from the Federal Court to secure assets pending the resolution of a dispute and to operate ''in rem'' may be significant in weighing the suitability of alternative fora in a motion for a stay based on
forum non conveniens ''Forum non conveniens'' ( for "an inconvenient forum") (FNC) is a mostly through which a court acknowledges that another forum or court where the case might have been brought is a more appropriate for a legal case, and transfers the case to s ...
. Canadian courts will not entertain actions against foreign ships in Canadian ports that seek to relitigate matters already decided by competent courts, but the authority of Canadian courts to issue maritime liens over ships arrested in Canadian waters will not be affected by orders of Canadian bankruptcy courts directing the proceeds of the sale to be paid to foreign trustees. Canadian courts can exercise discretion to decline jurisdiction over claims for wages where the accredited representative of the state to which the ship belongs objects to the exercise of jurisdiction. The court cannot acquire jurisdiction by consent of the parties if there is an absolute absence of jurisdiction in respect of the subject-matter.


Some examples of Canadian ''in rem'' cases:
4_DLR_1022_(Ex._Ct.).html" ;"title="927">''Baker Carver & Morell Inc. v. “Astoria”'' [1927
4 DLR 1022 (Ex. Ct.)
">927">''Baker Carver & Morell Inc. v. “Astoria”'' [1927
4 DLR 1022 (Ex. Ct.)

[1907">''"D.C. Whitney" v The St Clair Navigation Co'' [1907
38 SCR 303]
3_FC_601.html" ;"title="997">''Pakistan National Shipping Corp. v. Canada'' [1997
3 FC 601
">997">''Pakistan National Shipping Corp. v. Canada'' [1997
3 FC 601

''Caterpillar Overseas SA v. “Canmar Victory”'' [1998
FCJ No 1186]
2_FC_541.html" ;"title="979">''United Nations v. Atlantic Seaways Corp'' [1979
2 FC 541
">979">''United Nations v. Atlantic Seaways Corp'' [1979
2 FC 541


According to Professor Jianfu Chen of La Trobe University, "officially, the drafting of the 2007 Law of Rights ''in rem'' started in 1993, ... [but] rights ''in rem'' have always been part of the effort to draft a civil code in the PRC." "Rights in rem are defined to mean the rights by the right-holder to directly and exclusively control specific things (property); it includes ownership rights,
usufruct Usufruct () is a limited real right (or ''in rem'' right) found in civil-law and mixed jurisdictions that unites the two property interests of ''usus'' and ''fructus'': * ''Usus'' (''use'') is the right to use or enjoy a thing possessed, direct ...
and security interests in property."

See also

Civil forfeiture in the United States Civil forfeiture in the United States, also called civil asset forfeiture or civil judicial forfeiture, is a process in which law enforcement officers take assets from persons suspected of involvement with crime or illegal activity without necessar ...
*'' Jus ad rem'', a term in
civil law Civil law may refer to: * Civil law (common law) Civil law is a major branch of the law.Glanville Williams. ''Learning the Law''. Eleventh Edition. Stevens. 1982. p. 2. In common law legal systems such as England and Wales and the law of the United ...
meaning "a right to a thing", distinguished from '' jus in re'', which is dominion over a thing as against all persons. * Canadian maritime law


{{Authority control Civil procedure Jurisdiction