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Sosna v. Iowa - 419 U.S. 393, 95 S. Ct. 553 (1975)

Rule:

A named plaintiff in a class action must show that the threat of injury in a case where his or her own claim has been resolved, but claims of other class members remain unresolved is "real and immediate," not "conjectural" or "hypothetical." A litigant must be a member of the class that he or she seeks to represent at the time the class action is certified by the district court.

Facts:

Appellant Carol Sosna married Michael Sosna on Sept. 5, 1964 in Michigan. They lived together in New York between Oct. 1967 and Aug. 1971, after which they separated but continued to live in New York. In Aug. 1972, Carol moved to Iowa with her three children. A few months after, she filed a petition in an Iowa state court  for a dissolution of her marriage. Michael, who had been personally served with notice of the action when he came to Iowa to visit his children, made a special appearance to contest the jurisdiction of the Iowa court. The Iowa court dismissed the petition for lack of jurisdiction, finding that Michael was not a resident of Iowa and Carol had not been a resident of the State of Iowa for one year preceding the filing of her petition. The Iowa court applied the provisions of Iowa Code § 598.6 requiring that the petitioner in such an action be "for the last year a resident of the state." Carol filed a complaint in federal district court, asserting that Iowa's one-year residency requirement for invoking its divorce jurisdiction violated the United States Constitution. A three-judge court held that the requirement was constitutional. Carol sought review.

Issue:

Did Iowa's one-year residency requirement for invoking its divorce jurisdiction violate the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The Supreme Court of the United States held that the one-year residency requirement was valid. Iowa's requirement was based on the State's interest in requiring that those who sought a divorce from its courts were genuinely attached to the State, as well as a desire to insulate divorce decrees from the likelihood of collateral attack. The statute's failure to provide an individualized determination of residency did not violate due process because a litigant's rights were merely being delayed, not denied.

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