Monday, August 11, 2014

Personal Jurisdiction

Personal jurisdiction will surely be a heavily tested topic in Civil Procedure now that it'll be tested on the MBE. There are three types of jurisdiction to note: in personam jurisdiction (when the forum has power over the person of defendant); in rem jurisdiction (when the court has the power to adjudicate the rights of all persons with respect to a particular item of property); and quasi is rem jurisdiction (when the court has the power to determine the rights of particular individuals with respect to specific property within the court's control.) This post will focus on the first: in personam jurisdiction. As a foundation, it's important to understand that there are two potential limits on the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a defendant: the constitution, and any given state's long-arm statute.

(1): The Long-arm Statute:

The limitations as set forth the by long-arm statutes will of course vary by state (and so on the MBE, you'd have to be provided with a statute). But there are commonalities to note. Very often long arm statutes will allow for personal jurisdiction over defendants who are present in the forum state and personally served with process while present in that state. There are, however, often exceptions allowable for those who are in the state merely to serve as a party or witness to a judicial proceeding. In addition, if your domicile is the forum state, or if you consent to jurisdiction in the forum state, personal jurisdiction in that state is often granted. Finally, it's common for a state's long-arm statute to allow for jurisdiction whenever it would be allowed under the Constitution.

(2): The Constitution:

The constitutional requirements for granting personal jurisdiction over a defendant revolve around three concepts: minimum contacts, fairness, and notice. In regards to contacts, the constitution requires that the defendant have minimum contacts with the forum such that the exercise of jurisdiction over defendant would be fair and reasonable. The contacts must not be accidental; rather, the court must find that through defendant's contacts with the forum state, defendant purposefully availed him/herself of the privilege of conducting activities in that state, thus invoking the benefits and protections of the laws of that state. Further, the court will determine whether it was reasonably foreseeable to defendant that s/he may be haled into court in the forum state.

As to fairness, if the claim against defendant is related to the contacts with the state, then less contacts will be required for the court to determine that jurisdiction is fair. If the claim is entirely unrelated to the contacts with the state, then far more contacts (often deemed systematic and continuous contacts) may be required prior to granting jurisdiction. A determination of fairness in regards to the number of contacts is essential, and some other factors to consider when analyzing fairness are the plaintiff's interest in obtaining convenient and effective relief, the judicial system's interest in efficiency, convenience to defendant, and the shared interests of states in furthering social policies.

Notice is also required, and this is based on due process. Defendant must be notified by a reasonable method of a pending lawsuit, so that s/he may have the opportunity to appear in court and be heard.

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