Ford's Underlying Controversy

40 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2021 Last revised: 21 Jan 2022

See all articles by Christine Bartholomew

Christine Bartholomew

University at Buffalo School of Law

Anya Bernstein

University at Buffalo Law School

Date Written: September 9, 2021


Personal jurisdiction—the doctrine that determines where a plaintiff can sue—is a mess. Everyone agrees that a court can exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant with sufficient in-state contacts related to a plaintiff’s claim. This Article reveals, however, that courts diverge radically in their understanding of what a claim is. Without stating so outright, some courts limit claim to a cause of action or its elements, while others understand it to encompass the controversy underlying the litigation. What’s worse, few have noticed that these discrepancies even exist, much less explained why. This Article does just that. Crucially, as we show, a court’s choice of definition—usually implicit—controls the scope of jurisdiction. It can force parties to litigate piecemeal and effectively foreclose restitution for under-resourced plaintiffs by shutting them out their home courts. This chaos harms litigants, disrupts the judicial system, and undermines civil procedure values. As of this year, it also flies in the face of Supreme Court precedent. We show how the recent decision in Ford v. Montana settles the matter and helps cohere personal jurisdiction with its underlying due process commitments.

Keywords: personal jurisdiction, specific personal jurisdiction, pendent personal jurisdiction, civil procedure, Ford v. Montana

Suggested Citation

Bartholomew, Christine and Bernstein, Anya, Ford's Underlying Controversy (September 9, 2021). 99 Washington University Law Review __ (2022), University at Buffalo School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2021-005, Available at SSRN:

Christine Bartholomew (Contact Author)

University at Buffalo School of Law ( email )

School of Law
528 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States

Anya Bernstein

University at Buffalo Law School ( email )

School of Law
624 O'Brian Hall
Buffalo, NY 14260-1100
United States

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