Geometric Federalism

51 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2023 Last revised: 21 Feb 2024

Date Written: 2024


The geometry of overlapping federal and state sovereigns raises fundamental federalism concerns that remain largely unexamined. Because Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(1)(A), for example, restricts federal court personal jurisdiction to the same limits as courts of the state in which they sit, state legislatures can control federal court personal jurisdiction limits more restrictively than what the Due Process Clause demands. So far, the Supreme Court has avoided confronting that problem. The first time the Court acknowledged Rule 4(k)(1)(A) was in 2013–and there by no more than simultaneous cross-reference.

The failure to justify federal court deference to state territorial boundaries has always been a problem in need of a solution. But this need grows urgent as polarized state legislatures have grown more active in the culture wars. The Supreme Court’s recent resurrection of consent-based jurisdiction, which is effectively immunized from due process challenges, calls for deep and historical analysis of the grounds for federal deference to state territorialism. To undertake that analysis, this Article offers a new insight on how overlapping governments approach questions of personal jurisdiction. That fresh analytic perspective is “geometric federalism,” the principle that larger superior sovereigns’ jurisdiction should not be limited by more restrictive laws adopted by smaller inferior sovereigns. Geometric federalism is a useful tool for justifying a departure from Rule 4(k)(1)(A), as a prism for evaluating other questions of overlapping territorial jurisdiction, and as an eventual guardrail for overeager state legislatures.

Keywords: civil procedure, federalism, personal jurisdiction

Suggested Citation

Jarvis, Jason, Geometric Federalism (2024). Pepperdine University Legal Studies Research Paper Forthcoming, Alabama Law Review, 2025, Available at SSRN: or

Jason Jarvis (Contact Author)

Pepperdine Caruso Law ( email )

24255 Pacific Coast Highway
Malibu, CA 90263
United States

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics