WRITS – Lack of subject matter jurisdiction in writ filed over property distribution and estate matter: William Goldstein, Executor v. Judge Timothy J. Feeley & Ruby Joann Young-Layer (Real Party in Interest) (SC 8/27/2009)

William Goldstein, Executor v. Judge Timothy J. Feeley & Ruby Joann Young-Layer (Real Party in Interest)
2008-SC-000597-MR August 27, 2009
Opinion by Justice Venters. All sitting; all concur.

Before the circuit court could rule on the property division in dissolution action, the exhusband passed away. The circuit court substituted the estate as party to the dissolution and entered a restraining order prohibiting transfer of marital assets. The executor filed for a writ of prohibition and mandamus, arguing the trial court lacked personal jurisdiction. The Court of Appeals denied the writ. On appeal, the executor argued that a writ was proper since the trial court was proceeding outside its jurisdiction, which he contended was a proper basis for the issuance of a writ. The executor asserted he had not been properly served with process, therefore the circuit court lacked personal jurisdiction over him.

The Court affirmed the Court of Appeal’s denial of the writ, holding the “lack of jurisdiction” in writ cases as referred to in Hoskins means a lack of subject matter jurisdiction —not personal jurisdiction. Furthermore, the Court held that the exhusband’s death “did not divest the circuit court of jurisdiction over the marital property, nor did it eliminate the necessity of equitably dividing the marital property.”

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