Case-Linked Jurisdiction and Busybody States
105 Minn. L. Rev. Headnotes (2020 Forthcoming)
26 Pages Posted: 15 Oct 2020
Date Written: September 28, 2020
Beginning with Justice Ginsburg’s 2011 opinion in the Goodyear case – and echoed in Justice Thomas’s 2014 opinion in Walden v. Fiore and Justice Alito’s 2017 opinion in Bristol-Myers Squibb v. Superior Court – the Supreme Court has suggested that the distinctiveness of specific personal jurisdiction (in contrast to general jurisdiction) resides in its being “case-linked.” However, to date, the Justices have not spelled out what it takes for a defendant’s contacts with a forum to be case-linked, although they now have an opportunity to do so in a pair of personal injury cases brought against Ford Motor Company. This essay aims to provide the missing account of case-linkage, explaining along the way how it applies to the Court’s pending cases.
Our method is constructive and interpretive: we take as our starting point the Court’s precedents and its reasoning about two pillars of personal jurisdiction: state sovereignty and defendant’s due process rights. After Part I’s introduction, Part II re-examines the Court’s personal jurisdiction decisions from International Shoe to the present with the goal of understanding the concept of case-linkage as it has played out in the cases. Part III describes the Ford litigations presently before the Court, explaining why they invite consideration of an aspect of specific jurisdiction that the Court has yet to address adequately.
We put forward our theory of case-linked jurisdiction in Part IV. Case-linkage, we argue, can only be understood within a framework that isolates the key concepts that matter for due process. Two are crucial: (1) a concept of the scope of the defendant’s submission to state authority, and (2) a concept of the scope of the forum state’s legitimate interests. We explain the latter in terms of the principle that a state’s courts ought not meddle in affairs beyond the state’s legitimate reach (labeled “the Anti-Busybody Principle”). By explaining case-linkage both in terms of the scope of a defendant’s submission to state power and of a state’s legitimate interests, we offer a way to bring together the process and sovereignty concerns that underlie the law of personal jurisdiction.
With our own affirmative account in place, Part V shows why the “causation” approach to case-linkage advocated Ford and by some lower courts are indefensible, even if the more expansive “relatedness” tests of other courts are also not up to the task at hand. We also show that the intuitively right answer to the Ford cases—that a state court has jurisdiction to hear tort claims brought by state residents injured in-state by the defendant’s product (when the defendant has extensively sold the product-line in that state)—not only meshes with all relevant Supreme Court precedents, but also points to the best path forward for understanding, defining, and demarcating case-linked jurisdiction.
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