Nationwide Service of Process: Due Process Limitations on the Power of the Sovereign
48 Pages Posted: 14 Dec 2011 Last revised: 28 Dec 2011
Date Written: December 14, 2011
There are a number of instances in which a federal court asserts personal jurisdiction by service of process beyond the territorial limits of the state in which it sits. The most common examples of these assertions of jurisdiction are the use of a state's long-arm statute and the "bulge" provision of the federal rules. But, in addition, there are a number of statutes by which Congress has authorized nationwide service of process in particular circumstances.
It is generally accepted that Congress may authorize expansion limits of the states in which it sits, including authorization of extraterritorial service of process. However, a question which must be considered is whether there are any constitutional limitations on this congressional power and, if so, what those limitations are. For absent any restrictions, defendants could find themselves placed in the difficult position of having to litigate a case in a district far from home, with which they have no connection.
This Article begins by examining the principles which govern the assertion of personal jurisdiction in federal court. It analyzes examples of situations in which nationwide service of process has been authorized for the purpose of establishing the paradigm by which such authorizations are justified and limited. Finally, this Article suggests that the prevailing paradigm is inadequate and it offers an alternative for dealing with this problem in the future.
Keywords: nationwide service of process, federal courts, personal jurisdiction, civil procedure
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