Personal Jurisdiction and Aliens
45 Pages Posted: 24 Aug 2017 Last revised: 9 May 2018
Date Written: August 22, 2017
The increasing prevalence of noncitizens in U.S. civil litigation raises a fundamental question for the doctrine of personal jurisdiction: how should the alienage status of a defendant affect personal jurisdiction? This fundamental question comes at a time of increasing Supreme Court focus on personal jurisdiction, in cases like Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court, Daimler AG v. Bauman, and J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro. We aim to answer that question by offering a theory of alienage personal jurisdiction. Under this theory, alienage status broadens the geographic range for minimum contacts from a single state to the whole nation. This national-contacts test applies to personal jurisdiction over an alien defendant whether the cause of action is federal or state law, and whether the case is heard in federal or state court. We show that the test is both consistent with the Constitution and consonant with the practical realities of modern transnational litigation. We also explore the moderating influence of other doctrines, such as reasonableness, venue transfer, and forum non conveniens, on the expanded reach of our national-contacts test. In the end, we hope to articulate a more sensible and coherent doctrine of personal jurisdiction and alien defendants that will resonate with the Supreme Court.
Keywords: personal jurisdiction, specific jurisdiction, general jurisdiction, aliens, nicastro, bms, bristol-myers squibb, daimler, mcintyre
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