STANDARD OIL CO. V. NEW JERSEY, 341 U. S. 428 (1951)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Standard Oil Co. v. New Jersey, 341 U.S. 428 (1951)

Standard Oil Co. v. New Jersey

No. 384

Argued March 5, 1951

Decided May 28, 1951

341 U.S. 428


Under the New Jersey Escheat Act, proceedings were instituted in a state court to escheat to the State certain personal property, including unclaimed shares of appellant corporation's stock and unclaimed dividends. Personal service was made on appellant, and notice identifying the property and the last-known owners was given by publication. Appellant is a New Jersey corporation, but has no office or place of business in the State except a statutory registered office. It has no tangible property in the State except its stock and transfer books. The stock was issued and the dividends held in other states, and the last-known addresses of the owners were chiefly in other states and foreign countries. Over appellant's objection to the validity of the proceedings under the Federal Constitution, it was decreed that the unclaimed stock and dividends had escheated to the State.

Held: the judgment is sustained. Pp. 341 U. S. 429-443.

1. The notice required by the statute, as construed by the Supreme Court of New Jersey, and which was given, was adequate to bind interested persons. Pp. 341 U. S. 432-435.

2. The statute does not impair the obligation of contracts in violation of Art. I, § 10, 1, of the Federal Constitution. Pp. 341 U. S. 435-436.

3. Regardless of theories as to their situs, stock certificates and undelivered dividends may be abandoned property subject to the disposition of the domiciliary state of the corporation when the whereabouts of the owners are unknown for such lengths of time, and under such circumstances, as permit a declaration of abandonment. Pp. 341 U. S. 437-442.

(a) The fact that appellant is a New Jersey corporation, amenable to process through its designated agent at its registered office in New Jersey, gave New Jersey power to seize the res here involved -- i.e., the "debts or demands due to the escheated estate." Pp. 341 U. S. 438-439.

(b) No matter where appellant's assets may be, since it is its obligation to pay to the escheated estate that is taken, personal service on appellant effects a seizure of that obligation. P. 341 U. S. 439.

Page 341 U. S. 429

(c) Since choses in action have no tangible existence, control over them can only arise from control over the persons whose relationships are the source of the rights and obligations. Pp. 341 U. S. 439-440.

(d) Since the New Jersey court had jurisdiction of appellant by personal service and of the owners of the stock and dividends through notice or service by publication, New Jersey had power to act on their rights respecting these choses in action within constitutional limits. Pp. 341 U. S. 440-441.

4. Under the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the Federal Constitution, the debts and demands against appellant represented by the stock and dividends cannot be taken from appellant by another state when they have already been taken from appellant by a valid judgment of New Jersey. Pp. 341 U. S. 442-443.

5 N.J. 281, 74 A.2d 565, affirmed.

A New Jersey court decreed escheat to the certain unclaimed stock of appellant and of unclaimed dividends. 2 N.J.Super. 442, 64 A.2d 386; 5 N.J.Super. 460, 68 A.2d 499. The Supreme Court of New Jersey affirmed. 5 N.J. 281, 74 A.2d 565. On appeal to this Court, affirmed, p. 341 U. S. 443.

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