In honor of my upcoming trip to Poland (and some work I just did on interstate divorce personal jurisdiction issues), we turn our eyes to the Supreme Court of Washington (state, that is--on the West Coast) and its ties to a lovely little town that I like to call drugim domem, Wrocław. The case, by the way, is In Re Marriage of Kowalewski.
Husband and Wife had been married for 28 years when they decided to call it quits in Pierce County Superior Court. The court divided the community property, including two residences in Poland. One was an apartment in Wrocław, and the other was a farm in Orlowiec.
The court found that these properties were of equal value. She got the apartment; he got the farm. He wanted to sell the apartment and split the proceeds. He said the apartment was worth more, but the court denied his motion to prove that because he made it too late.
A year later, he moved to vacate the property distribution, contending that the court did not have jurisdiction to divide property outside of Washington. The court denied it because it did not "directly affect title to property in Poland by dividing the parties rights and interests in said property."
He appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed because (ex-)Husband invoked the divorce decree that divided the community property. The decree was a matter for the Polish courts to enforce--thus, it did not directly affect his property rights.
Neither party disputed personal jurisdiction--the issue was whether the court could divide property in Poland. The court distinguished between jurisdiction over a transitory action ("jurisdiction to adjudicate personal interests in real property") and a local action ("jurisdiction to adjudicate legal title to real property"). Though the Washington court did not "have power directly to affect title to real property located outside the state," it did have the power to "indirectly affect title by means of an in personam decree operating on the person over whom it has jurisdiction."
Therefore, because the order only affected the in personam rights to the property and not the in rem rights, the decree was valid. The court pointed out that the Polish courts could make what they want of the order. Nonetheless, the court upheld the decree.