The Business of Personal Jurisdiction

31 Pages Posted: 28 May 2017 Last revised: 3 Sep 2017

See all articles by Cassandra Burke Robertson

Cassandra Burke Robertson

Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Charles W. (Rocky) Rhodes

South Texas College of Law

Date Written: May 26, 2017


This contribution to a symposium on business and the Roberts Court examines the Court's remarkable reshaping of personal jurisdiction. Although the changes limit the scope of jurisdiction in ways that may favor defendants overall, the Court does not appear directly motivated by a desire to favor business — and, in fact, the Court erected significant obstacles to business interests in some contexts. Instead, the results in the cases may be better explained by the Court’s commitment to a formalist approach with respect for territorial boundaries and by a skepticism of transnational litigation not clearly related to a U.S. forum.

The Court’s recent changes to the discovery rules suggest that its rulemaking approach, in contrast, may align more directly with business interests. Chief Justice Roberts’ report summarizing the new rules parallels the language used by business advocates who focus on the expense of lawsuits and the toll that litigation takes on business. In the report, he writes that the discovery changes are important “to help ensure that federal court litigation does not degenerate into wasteful clashes over matters that have little to do with achieving a just result.” The Court’s more business-protective approach to discovery does not undercut the Court’s formalist commitment, but rather likely reflects a continued regard for the separation of powers even in the Court itself, where the rulemaking function can more directly encompass policy interests than the Court’s adjudication function.

While the revised discovery rules may lessen litigation costs overall, however, they do not take account of the need for jurisdictional discovery and do not help resolve the jurisdictional analysis. This oversight is unfortunate, as the Court’s new equilibrium in personal jurisdiction means that factual development will become increasingly important. It is no longer enough to say that a defendant has continuous, systematic, and substantial contacts within the forum; instead, parties will have to develop a factual foundation that explores the nature, scope, extent, and duration of those contacts and explains how those contacts relate to the substance of the claim asserted. Without further refinement of the rules of jurisdictional discovery, courts and parties alike will struggle to reconcile the jurisdictional question with the available tools of discovery.

Keywords: Personal Jurisdiction, Daimler AG v. Bauman, 134 S Ct. 746 (2014), Walden v. Fiore, 134 S. Ct. 1115 (2014), Continuous and systematic, Out-of-state defendants, In-state effects, International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945), State regulatory and adjudicatory interests

JEL Classification: K41

Suggested Citation

Robertson, Cassandra Burke and Rhodes, Charles W. (Rocky), The Business of Personal Jurisdiction (May 26, 2017). 68 Case Western Reserve Law Review 775 (2017), Case Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2017-11, Available at SSRN:

Cassandra Burke Robertson (Contact Author)

Case Western Reserve University School of Law ( email )

11075 East Boulevard
Cleveland, OH 44106-7148
United States
216-368-3302 (Phone)

Charles W. (Rocky) Rhodes

South Texas College of Law ( email )

1303 San Jacinto Street
Houston, TX 77002
United States
713-646-2918 (Phone)

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