The Quiet Revolution in Personal Jurisdiction
Tulane Law Review, Vol. 83, No. 2, 1998
Posted: 20 Nov 1998
Date Written: January 1998
The familiarity of personal jurisdiction doctrine belies the almost total absence of empirical inquiry into many of the assumptions often made in analyzing those cases. For example, there is relatively little systemic evidence on how lower courts reacted to the Supreme Court's purportedly more restrictive view of the extent of personal jurisdiction since the early 1980s, whether federal and state judiciaries typically treat such cases in different fashions, and how often plaintiffs leave their state of residence to shop for a favorable forum. In this Article, Professor Solimine describes his empirical examination of some of these questions, by retrieving and coding nearly 1000 published cases from the United States Court of Appeals, and state supreme courts, decided between 1970 and 1994, which decided personal jurisdiction issues. He finds, among other things, that the doctrinal revolution of the early 1980s is less dramatic than some think; after 1980 lower courts did find personal jurisdiction less often than before, though the differences are not striking. Likewise, there is some evidence that state courts are more likely to find personal jurisdiction, though again the difference from federal court holdings is not large. Finally, it appears that relatively few plaintiffs go outside their resident state to bring suit. Professor Solimine explores various rationales for these arguably counter-intuitive results, as well as other aspects of the study. He concludes by suggesting avenues for further empirical inquiry, which will better inform the development of personal jurisdiction doctrine than have the untested assumptions to date.
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