Shaffer v. Heitner

LOCATION: James R. Browning Courthouse

DOCKET NO.: 75-1812
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: Delaware Supreme Court

CITATION: 433 US 186 (1977)
ARGUED: Feb 22, 1977
DECIDED: Jun 24, 1977

John R. Reese - for appellants
Michael F. Maschio - for appellee

Facts of the case


Media for Shaffer v. Heitner

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 22, 1977 in Shaffer v. Heitner

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 24, 1977 in Shaffer v. Heitner

Warren E. Burger:

The judgment and opinion of the Court in 75-1812, Shaffer and others against Heitner to be announced by Mr. Justice Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall:

Now, this case is here on appeal to the Supreme Court of Delaware.

It is as, share holder's derivative suite which was filed by the respondent, Heitner, who was the owner of one share of stock in Greyhound Corporation against officers and directors of the Government.

Greyhound is incorporated in Delaware but its principle place of business is in Arizona.

There is no indication that the defendant directors had ever had any contacts with Delaware.

In order to establish jurisdiction over these directors, Heitner utilized a Delaware procedure that allows a plaintiff to secure a quasi in rem jurisdiction over a non-resident by attaching the defendant's property located in Delaware.

For the purposes of that statute, stock in a Delaware Corporation is considered to be located in Delaware.

The directors challenged the constitutionality of the statute on the ground that as applied, it allowed the state courts to exercise jurisdiction over defendants who did not have sufficient contacts with the State to satisfy the requirements of do process.

The Delaware Courts rejected this challenge, holding that the presence of the defendant's properly in the State was a constitutionally adequate basis of jurisdiction.

We noted probable jurisdiction of the appealed and an opinion filed with the clerk, we now reverse.

We conclude that the due process clause prohibits the exercise of state court jurisdiction in the absence of minimum contacts among the defendants, the State and the litigation.

The distinction between actions and “personam” on the one hand, and access in rem -- in quasi in rem on the other no longer justifies the application of different constitutional test of state court jurisdiction.

We also conclude that the simple facts that defendants are fiduciaries of a corporation formally charted in Delaware and owned stock or other interested in that corporation do not supply contacts with Delaware, sufficient to make them subject to de suite in that State.

Mr. Justice Powell has filed a concurring opinion.

Mr. Justice Stevens has filed an opinion concurrent in the judgment.

Mr. Brennan -- Mr. Justice Brennan has filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part

Mr. Justice Rehnquist took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Warren E. Burger:

Justice Marshall.