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The territorial limitation of the jurisdiction of courts of a State over property in another State has a limited exception in the jurisdiction of a court of equity, but it is an exception well defined. A court of equity having authority to act upon the person may indirectly act upon real estate in another State, through the instrumentality of this authority over the person. Whatever it may do through the party it may do to give effect to its decree respecting property, whether it goes to the entire disposition of it or only to effect it with liens or burdens. A court of equity having jurisdiction in personam has power to require a defendant to do or to refrain from doing anything beyond the limits of its territorial jurisdiction which it might have required to be done or omitted within the limits of such territory. A decree cannot operate beyond the State in which the jurisdiction is exercised. It is not in the power of one State to prescribe the mode by which real property shall be conveyed in another. This principle is too clear to admit of doubt.
A Washington state court awarded the wife a judgment of divorce, and the husband was ordered to deed land located in Nebraska to the wife. The husband failed to comply with the order and instead executed a mortgage on the land and eventually deeded the land to the grantee. The wife filed a suit to set the mortgage and the deed aside, but the state supreme court reversed a judgment for the wife.
Must a deed to a land situated in Nebraska, made by a commissioner under the decree of a court of the State of Washington in an action for divorce, be recognized under the due faith and credit clause of the Constitution of the United States?
On further review, the Court upheld the state supreme court's judgment, holding that the Washington state court had no jurisdiction to dispose of the Nebraska land. The Court held that although the Washington court had jurisdiction over the parties, its jurisdiction did not extend over the Nebraska land. The Court further held that because the Washington decree was void to the extent that it attempted to convey title to the land, the grantee was not compelled to part with her title to the land.