Duhaime's Law Dictionary


In Personam Definition:

Latin: regarding a person; a right, action, judgment or entitlement that is attached to a specific person(s).

Related Terms: In Rem, Ratione Personae

Also known as personal jurisdiction.

Latin: All legal rights are said to be either in personam or in rem.

An in personam right is a personal right attached to a specific person, such as contract rights, a tort award against a defendant, or a license.

In rem rights are property rights enforceable against the entire world (such as property rights) whereas an in personam judgment binds only the litigants.

In Mozley's 1908 law dictionary, the authors describe in personam as:

"A proceeding in personam is one in which relief is sought against, or punishment sought to be inflicted upon, a specific person."

Byrne’s 1923 description:

"In the Roman law, from which they are taken, the expressions in rem and in personam were always opposed to one another, an act or proceeding in personam being one done or directed against or with reference to a specific person, while an act or proceeding in rem was one done or directed with reference to no specific person, and consequently against or with reference to all who would it might concern or ‘all of the world’.

"The phrases were especially apply to actions, an action in personam being the remedy where I claim against a specific person arose about of an obligation, whether (in contract) or (in tort), while an action in rem was one brought for the assertion of a right of property, easement, status, etc., against one who denied or infringed it.

"From this use of the terms they have come to be applied to signify the antithesis of ‘available against a particular person’ and ‘available against the world at large’.

"So a judgment is said to be in rem when it binds third persons."

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