light of the fact that she initiated the Florida divorce action. Although the actual decree was granted on her husband's counterclaim, by no means is Mrs. Simon in the position of a spouse who was dragged unwillingly before the divorce courts of a foreign state. On the contrary, she chose the forum, voluntarily submitted herself to it, and opposed the adjudication she now seeks. Since plaintiff was represented by counsel at all times, I must assume she was advised of the prevailing Florida law and its potential consequence but proceeded as she did in the hope of some tactical advantage.
Surely, plaintiff cannot suggest that she was unaware of her property claims' existence at the time of the divorce action. Indeed, she had already instituted suits in the Pennsylvania courts based on those claims. Similarly, she cannot assert that the Florida court was incompetent to judge the merits of the controversy effectively. Her claim to an interest in the property is not based on any subtle peculiarity of Pennsylvania law or local custom. Rather, she alleges that she was the victim of common-law fraud and forgery. A trial court in Florida could competently adjudicate such a claim as readily as could a court in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
It is clear, therefore, that plaintiff was afforded a full opportunity for a hearing on the merits of her claim. An injunction prohibiting her from litigating now what she could have litigated before does not violate her constitutional right to due process. Mrs. Simon took direct appeals from the injunction order to three higher courts, all of which refused to disturb the ruling below. The present suit, though styled as an action to vindicate plaintiff's civil rights, is in fact merely another effort to seek review of the Florida injunction. Such a purpose is wholly inappropriate in a civil rights action brought before a federal court. Meyer v. Lavelle, 389 F. Supp. 972, 976 (E.D.Pa.1975).
Plaintiff also asserts that the Florida courts lacked subject matter jurisdiction to affect rights in Pennsylvania real property. Thus, it is contended that the Florida injunction has no jurisdictional basis and is not entitled to full faith and credit. In my view, however, plaintiff's position misstates the law.
It is true that a Florida court could not enter an order which operates directly on title to real estate located in Pennsylvania. Such an order could only be issued under the In rem jurisdiction of a court in the state which is the situs of the property. See Hanson v. Denckla, 357 U.S. 235, 246, 78 S. Ct. 1228, 1236, 2 L. Ed. 2d 1283 (1958); 27B C.J.S. Divorce § 383 (1959). A court having Personal jurisdiction of the interested parties, however, would be competent to order a Conveyance of the land, wherever situated.
This important distinction was recognized in Whitmer v. Whitmer, 243 Pa.Super. 462, 365 A.2d 1316 (1976), cert. denied, 434 U.S. 822, 98 S. Ct. 67, 54 L. Ed. 2d 79 (1977), a case which grew, like the present controversy, out of a Florida divorce action. The Florida court in Whitmer had entered an order granting the wife an undivided one-half interest in her husband's property located in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the order was a nullity since it purported to affect directly title to property situated outside the boundaries of Florida. 365 A.2d at 1319. The Superior Court then suggested a more appropriate method by which the Florida divorce court could have proceeded: "Having personal jurisdiction over appellee (husband), the Florida court might have ordered appellee to convey a one-half interest in his Pennsylvania property to appellant and, if necessary, enforce its order by contempt proceedings." 365 A.2d at 1319. Thus, instead of acting In rem and conveying the property directly by its own order, the Florida court should have acted through the husband, exercising its Personal jurisdiction, and ordered him to make the conveyance. See 27B C.J.S. Divorce, § 383.
In the present case, if Mrs. Simon had litigated her claims in the divorce proceedings and prevailed on the merits, the Florida court could have ordered the husband to make any conveyance of the Pennsylvania real estate that it deemed proper. Under Whitmer, such an order would clearly have been recognized as valid by the Pennsylvania courts, since Mr. Simon was subject to personal jurisdiction in Florida.
It follows then that the injunction under which Mrs. Simon presently suffers is fully valid and entitled to recognition. The order is not an exercise of In rem jurisdiction and it does not purport to affect the title to property located in Pennsylvania. On the contrary, like an order to convey, the injunction merely affects the personal actions of a party to the divorce proceedings. Its basis is found in the court's In personam jurisdiction, to which the plaintiff-wife voluntarily submitted when she sued her husband in Florida.
This injunction would have been plainly valid and appropriate if the parties had litigated the property claims and the husband had prevailed on the merits. Under the principles of the res judicata doctrine, Mr. Simon would be entitled to the protection of the order, and the Florida trial court would have an interest in preserving the integrity of its judgment. Surely, these principles must apply with equal force where the plaintiff was presented with an effective opportunity to litigate her claims, and voluntarily declined it. There must, at some point, be an end to litigation. In the present case, that point has been reached.