Walden v. Fiore and the Federal Courts: Rethinking FRCP 4(k)(1)(A) and Stafford v. Briggs
9 Pages Posted: 24 Feb 2015 Last revised: 5 Jan 2016
Date Written: January 4, 2016
If it were not so common, the reasoning in Walden v. Fiore would seem bizarre: the jurisdiction of a federal court over a federal claim against a federal agent depends on how much power the constitution allows the state of Nevada. This strange result is, of course, the result of FRCP 4(k)(1)(A), which, in most cases, makes the jurisdiction of a federal district court co-extensive with the jurisdiction of a state court of general jurisdiction in the same district. Less obviously, the outcome in Walden v. Fiore reflects Stafford v. Briggs, which, contrary to the plain language of the federal venue statute, held that a Bivens action could not be brought in the judicial district in which the plaintiff resides. Walden v. Fiore thus provides an opportunity to revisit the wisdom of FRCP 4(k)(1)(A) and Stafford v. Briggs. FRCP 4(k)(1)(A) should be revised in cases involving federal law to allow jurisdiction in any federal district court. Venue, however, should be restricted to ensure that the most convenient forum is chosen, taking into account convenience to both plaintiff and defendant. In cases involving alleged misconduct by federal officers, where the U.S. can easily defend in any district, plaintiffs should be allowed to sue in his or her home district.
Keywords: jurisdiction, venue, federal courts, federal question, Bivens, Due Process
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