Clarifying General Jurisdiction
114 Pages Posted: 17 Jun 2004 Last revised: 11 Apr 2021
Date Written: June 7, 2004
This Article highlights the due process limitations on a state's assertion of general in personam jurisdiction, predicated partially on a survey of some 3,000 federal and state opinions. While the judiciary is still encountering difficulty defining the parameters of dispute-blind jurisdiction, I did identify and catalog six existing doctrinal approaches. But as none of these approaches is satisfactory, I propose a new principle that comports with the holdings, although not necessarily the reasoning, of the Supreme Court, most federal circuit courts, and a number of federal district courts and state courts.
This proposal is that the minimum contacts analysis for general jurisdiction should be based on two interrelated components: a qualitative and then quantitative comparison of the defendant's forum conduct to the activities of a local business. The qualitative component is satisfied if the nonresident defendant is conducting those types of activities in the forum - such as directing its business operations from the state, producing its goods or services in the state, or selling such goods or services through in-state business transactions - that typically define a commercial domiciliary of the state. The quantitative component then adjudges whether the nonresident defendant engages in such forum activities in a comparable frequency to at least some local businesses.
I finally examine the theoretical foundation of general adjudicatory jurisdiction under this model. Employing an analogy to traditional substantive due process doctrine, I conclude that the constitutional limitations on a state's jurisdictional reach are premised on both fairness and state sovereign interests. Nonetheless, the predominant underpinning for general adjudicatory jurisdiction is the absence of state sovereign interests over those defendants not conducting activities in the forum similar to a domiciliary owing its allegiance to the state.
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