The opinion of the court was delivered by: LEVAL
Defendants Starlines Container Shipping, Ltd. ("Starlines Container") and Starlines Shipping Co., Inc. ("Starlines Shipping") and garnishees Kane, Halley & Chalos, move pursuant to Rule B of the Supplemental Rules for Certain Admiralty and Maritime Claims (the "Supplemental Rules") to vacate a writ of maritime attachment on the grounds that defendants are "found within the district" within the meaning of Supplemental Rule B(1) and that the claim is not a maritime or admiralty claim. The defendants move also to dismiss the complaint on the grounds that an identical cause of action is pending in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.
Each of the three plaintiffs, being a lessor under a container lease agreement made with one or more of the Starlines defendants, is suing to recover damages for breach. The actions were commenced by securing a maritime attachment over property of the defendants which the latter here seek to set aside.
A maritime attachment is precluded under Admiralty Rule B(1) only if the defendants have engaged in sufficient activity in the district or the cause of action has sufficient contacts with the district to permit the court to exercise In personam jurisdiction over the defendants (hereafter referred to as presence in the jurisdictional sense), And in addition can be found within the geographical confines of the district for service of process. Seawind Compania, S.A. v. Crescent Line, Inc., 320 F.2d 580, 582 (2d Cir. 1963); Antco Shipping Co., Ltd. v. Yukon Compania Naviera, S.A., 318 F. Supp. 626 (S.D.N.Y.1970). Thus the attachment will lie unless the defendant is present in the district in both senses.
An attachment under the Admiralty Rule serves two purposes: (1) to obtain jurisdiction of the defendant In personam through his property, and (2) to secure a fund out of which a judgment may be satisfied. Seawind Compania, S.A. v. Crescent Line, Inc., supra, 581-82.
The test is quite arbitrary in its specification of the circumstances in which the maritime attachment may be used. No matter how convincingly demonstrated the plaintiff's need for security, it will not authorize attachment against a defendant who is present in the district in both senses. On the other hand, the fact that a defendant can be subjected to the court's In personam jurisdiction by virtue of the presence of a resident agent for service of process will not suffice to defeat the attachment if the defendant is not otherwise present in the district in the jurisdictional sense; nor will the fact that the defendant is present in the jurisdictional sense suffice, if he cannot be found for service of process within the district. This test amounts to a somewhat arbitrary compromise which assumes that the plaintiff will not require the protection of an attachment for security, nor should the defendant be subjected to it, if the defendant is present in both senses, and assumes on the other hand that the plaintiff's interests are not adequately protected despite the ability to perfect In personam jurisdiction if the defendant is not present in both senses.
The relevant facts are as follows:
Taking first those which favor the attachments: The defendants are foreign corporations, the principal lessee being incorporated in Liberia. It is conceded that since March 31, 1979, three months before the plaintiffs secured these attachments, the Starlines companies have ceased to do business and Starlines Shipping has closed its New York office and disconnected its telephone in New York. Apparently no Starlines employees have been present in New York since that date.
The facts upon which the defendants rely in seeking to defeat the attachments are as follows:
Starlines Shipping is authorized to do business in New York pursuant to a certificate of authority under § 1304 of the New York Business Corporation Law, which remains on file and in effect. That certificate authorizes service of process on the Secretary of State of the State of New York. The lease agreements in question were negotiated and signed for the Starlines lessees in New York by Starlines Shipping, 77 Water Street, New York, New York, as their agent. Two agreements called for submission to the jurisdiction of the courts of New York; the third called for submission to arbitration in New York with New York law to apply. One of the agreements authorized service of process on the lessees by certified or registered mail sent to the lessees in care of Starlines Shipping at its Water Street address. Defendants point also to the fact that the Starlines companies have attorneys in New York which are representing them in connection with several litigations.
Defendants contend that their presence, in the International Shoe sense,
is satisfied, as to this cause of action if not for others, by the fact that the contracts here in question have such substantial connections with New York. Thus, despite the absence of any defendant personnel, or of any continuing defendant activity in New York, plaintiffs would be able under the New York long-arm statute to bring the defendants within the New York court's jurisdiction.
Professor Moore points out that a finding of "presence" based exclusively on prior activity does not give logical support to the assumption that the security of an attachment is not needed. Moore therefore argues, quite persuasively in my view, that prior contacts which might be sufficient to satisfy the exercise of personal jurisdiction in accordance with due process, should not be deemed to satisfy the required finding of presence in the jurisdictional sense to defeat a maritime attachment. See 7A Moore's Federal Practice P B.06 n. 28 (2d ed. 1978).
The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, however, in the Seawind case seems to imply that the presence which there resulted from the prior contractual contacts would have been sufficient to defeat the attachment, even absent continuing local activity or personnel. If so, the defendants here appear to have narrowly satisfied that branch of the test, although their presence is predicated almost entirely on previous activity. See also Antco Shipping Co., Ltd. v. Yukon Compania Naviera, S.A., supra.
Turning now to the other branch of the test, defendants contend that they can be found within the district for service ...