Personal Jurisdiction Law and Legal Definition

Personal jurisdiction or in personam jurisdiction is the jurisdiction, over the person of the defendant, which can be acquired only by service of process upon the defendant in the state to which the court belongs or by his voluntary submission to jurisdiction. The court must have in personam jurisdiction over a person in order to try a case against that specific individual. In addition to the mandatory requirement of having subject-matter jurisdiction, a court needs to acquire in personam jurisdiction over the respondent/defendant. Any order issued by a judge in the absence of both subject-matter jurisdiction and in personam jurisdiction is void, or of no legal force or effect.

Personal jurisdiction is obtained when the respondent/ defendant is properly served with a summons and complaint either by certified mail, by personal service, or by publication (only rarely used and only when the address of the respondent/defendant is unknown). The judgment that applies to such a person is called an "in personam judgment."