1. Personal Jurisdiction
  2. Venue
  3. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Got to have all three or you can’t start your case.

Personal Jurisdiction – First Ring

Pennoyer v. Neff  (1877)

Territoriality Principle: Every state possesses exclusive jurisdiction and sovereignty over persons and property w/in its territory

Consent: If you consent to personal jurisdiction, you are subject to it.

Status: If all it is is a case involving status, then one party (P) can be in the forum and that’s sufficient. (I.e. Married in Ore. and one party splits to Fl., thus making that party inaccessible.)

Int’l Shoe and Minimum Contacts 

New Rule: Personal jurisdiction if non-resident D has “certain minimum contacts with (the forum) such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.”

McGee v. Int’l Life Ins. (1957)

California can grab jurisdiction over a Texas insurance company that only insured one citizen in Ca. for two reasons: 1) Ca. had very specific legislation saying that if you insure Californians, then Ca. has jurisdiction over you and 2) Ca. has a strong policy interest indicated by the passage of the statute. (Strong state policy interest – Shoe factor 3)

2 Step Jurisdictional Method of Analysis:

  1. Jurisdiction under state Long Arm Statute or Rule?
  2. Is it compatible with due process? (That is, is jurisdictional power in the forum compatible with due process?)

Gray v. American Radiator (Ill. 1961)

Worldwide VW v. Woodson (1980)

Min. Contacts serves 2 functions: 1) Protects D against the burdens of litigating in a distant or inconvenient forum and 2) it acts to ensure that the States thru their courts do not reach beyond the limits imposed on them by their status as coequal sovereigns.

Foreseeability that company’s products could move around rejected as the sole basis for jurisdiction.  Instead “reasonable expectation of being haled into court.”

Attenuation – too much in this case. Contact too attenuated for forum to exercise jurisdiction b/c of marginal revenues generated in state forum.

Note: May be if D’s had had any notice that they might be sued in the state forum, then the S.Ct. might have upheld personal jurisdiction (Cf. Gray Radiator)

Other Minimum Contacts Cases

Calder v. Jones (1984): B/c Ca. was the focal point of both the magazine story at issue and the harm suffered, jurisdiction over D is proper in Ca. based on the “effects” of their conduct in Fl. (Harmful story written in Fl., but “aimed” at Ca. b/c that’s where Shirley Jones lived)

Keeton v. Hustler: Despite putting the breaks on the minimum contacts train in Worlwide VW, Ct. says that Hustler’s sale of $10-15K in magazines in New Hampshire was enough for jurisdiction in the forum.

Asahi (1987): Original P (from California) had settled. Ct. had to decide if there was jurisdiction over foreign company in California state court based on cross-complaint. S.Ct. splits and refused to uphold jurisdiction.

Lessons from Asahi: Ct. is very leery about dragging foreign D’s into state court.

Shaffer v. Heitner (1977): Part II of Pennoyer rejected. Distinction between in rem, in personem and quasi in rem rejected.  Int’l Shoe becomes the standard for all cases, so there is no need for different standards.

Burnham v. Superior Ct. (1990): Scalia upholds jurisdiction NOT on the basis of minimum contacts reasons, but on the “historical basis” of presence of D in the forum. This is not the law b/c Scalia could only get three other votes and four is not five.

Brennan: Agreed that there was jurisdiction, but for minimum contacts reasons b/c D’s kids lived in California so Ca. had a large state interest in making sure D paid child support.

Stevens: Said both Brennan and Scalia were right, thus insuring that neither view became the law.

Although Scalia’s opinion reinvigorated “presence” or situs jurisdiction, this is NOT THE LAW b/c 4 does NOT EQUAL 5.

Note: Most cts. have rejected the Scalia theory applied to corporate Ds. I.e. can’t serve an officer of the corporation just b/c he is in the state and grab jurisdiction.

Helicol (1984): General jurisdiction (= contacts unrelated to cause of action). S. Ct. rejects jurisdiction  on gen. jurisdiction theory, largely b/c P’s atty. conceded no specific jurisdiction.

Minimum Contacts Analysis

  1. Purposeful Availment of forum laws
  2. a) Does the D have a reasonable expectation of being haled into court?

AND/OR (Unclear if you only need one or both)

  1. Factors from Int’l Shoe:
  2. a) Forum state’s interest in adjudicating the dispute
  3. b) P’s interest in obtaining convenient and effective relief
  4. c) The interstate judicial system’s interest in obtaining the most efficient resolution of controversies.
  5. d) Shared interest of the several states in furthering substantive social policies.

Forum Selection Clauses

Carnival Cruise Lines v. Shute (1991): Forum selection clauses in Ks are okay:

1) Cruise line has a special interest b/c it carries passengers from all over, so it could be hauled into court in any number of fora.

2) Dispelling any confusion about where suits arising from the K must be brought and defended.

3) Passengers benefit from such clauses b/c their fares are reduced b/c the cruise line has reduced its litigation expenses by limiting number of fora it can be sued in.

Bremen – Prior law held that forum selection clauses were okay as long as they were fair and reasonable. In this case forum selection clauses were found to be fair and reasonable b/c they were bargained for.

Lessons from this case: This ct. does not care much about fair and reasonable and a flashing signal to the lower cts. that forum selection clauses should be upheld.

 Venue – Second Ring

State Venue  – There’s always someplace you can sue:

  1. Usually where D resides. So find the county where they live and sue them there.
  2. Sue “where claim arose.” What if – for example – 2 elts of a tort took place in county and the other 2 took place elsewhere? You can still sue where D lives.
  3. Local action rule: In real property cases, many states mandate that you sue where the property is located.

Federal Venue – 28 U.S.C. 1391

  1. Sue at D’s place of residence. Can be problematic
  2. Sue where a substantial part of the facts or omissions leading to the case did or did not occur.
  3. If it’s a case where SM Jurisdiction is based on diversity, then sue the D where they are subject to personal jurisdiction. If it’s a federal question case, then its wherever D can be found.

If you sue a corporation, then there’s venue wherever corporation is subject to personal jurisdiction.

General Rule: If you have personal jurisdiction, you’ve got venue.

If you have objections to personal jurisdiction and/or venue, bring them at the beginning, otherwise you’ve waived them and you’re cooked.

Intrasystem Transfers – One Fed. Ct. to another

28 U.S.C. 1404(a): You can transfer a case for convenience. If a case is filed in federal ct. and it could have been filed in another court, then it can be transferred for convenience.

The tranferee forum has to have SM jurisdiction and personal jurisdiction and venue as well. But transferee venue has to be much more convenient.

Forum Non Conviens

Piper Aircraft: More favorable body of substantive law is not enough to change forum. BUT if the remedy provided by the alternate forum is so clearly inadequate or unsatisfactory that it is no remedy at all, the unfavorable change in law may be given substantial weight, so possible of unfavorable change in law is not always irrelevant.

Note: If P moves to transfer, P is stuck with the law of transferor forum. It’s stupid for P’s to file a transfer motion b/c they should have just filed somewhere else to begin with b/c they have the same law.

Subject Matter Jurisdiction – Third Ring

28 U.S.C. 1331 – Federal Question

28 U.S.C. 1332 – Diversity Jurisdiction (Complete)

Amount in Controversy:

General Rule: For jurisdictional purposes, assume P pleaded damages in good faith.

If P is relying on punitive damages for amount in controversy purposes, ct. will scrutinize carefully. May not get dismissed automatically, but if it appears to a “legal certainty” that there is no way you can get those damages, judge may dismiss even if your complaint is “well pleaded.”


Corps have dual citizenship in the state where they are incorporated and in the state where their “nerve center” is. But if their manufacturing HQ is elsewhere then they are a citizen of that state.

If the bulk of a corp’s activity is unclear, then cts will use “nerve center” over “muscle test.”

Merrel Dow (1986):

Factors to Determine whether a Federal Cause of Action Lies:

  1. P is not part of class for whose special benefit statute was passé.
  2. Legislative intent reveals no Congressional purpose to provide a private cause of action.
  3. Federal cause of action would not further underlying purposes of legislative scheme.
  4. Cause of action is a subject traditionally regulated by state law.