In Personam Proceedings Against Individuals.

How juris-diction is determined depends on the nature of the suit being brought. If a dispute is directed against a person, not property, the proceedings are considered in personam, and jurisdiction must be established over the defendant’s person in order to render an effective decree.904 Generally, presence within the state is sufficient to create personal jurisdiction over an individual, if process is served.905 In the case of a resident who is absent from the state, domicile alone is deemed to be sufficient to keep him within reach of the state courts for purposes of a personal judgment, and process can be obtained by means of appropriate, substituted service or by actual personal service on the resident outside the state.906 However, if the defendant, although technically domiciled there, has left the state with no intention to return, service by publication, as compared to a summons left at his last and usual place of abode where his family continued to reside, is inadequate, because it is not reasonably calculated to give actual notice of the proceedings and opportunity to be heard.907

With respect to a nonresident, it is clearly established that no person can be deprived of property rights by a decree in a case in which he neither appeared nor was served or effectively made a party.908 The early cases held that the process of a court of one state could not run into another and summon a resident of that state to respond to proceedings against him, when neither his person nor his property was within the jurisdiction of the court rendering the judgment.909 This rule, however, has been attenuated in a series of steps.

Consent has always been sufficient to create jurisdiction, even in the absence of any other connection between the litigation and the forum. For example, the appearance of the defendant for any purpose other than to challenge the jurisdiction of the court was deemed a voluntary submission to the court’s power,910 and even a special appearance to deny jurisdiction might be treated as consensual submission to the court.911 The concept of “constructive consent” was then seized upon as a basis for obtaining jurisdiction. For instance, with the advent of the automobile, States were permitted to engage in the fiction that the use of their highways was conditioned upon the consent of drivers to be sued in state courts for accidents or other transactions arising out of such use. Thus, a state could designate a state official as a proper person to receive service of process in such litigation, and establishing jurisdiction required only that the official receiving notice communicate it to the person sued.912

Although the Court approved of the legal fiction that such jurisdiction arose out of consent, the basis for jurisdiction was really the state’s power to regulate acts done in the state that were dangerous to life or property.913 Because the state did not really have the ability to prevent nonresidents from doing business in their state,914 this extension was necessary in order to permit states to assume jurisdiction over individuals “doing business” within the state. Thus, the Court soon recognized that “doing business” within a state was itself a sufficient basis for jurisdiction over a nonresident individual, at least where the business done was exceptional enough to create a strong state interest in regulation, and service could be effectuated within the state on an agent appointed to carry out the business.915

The culmination of this trend, established in International Shoe Co. v. Washington,916 was the requirement that there be “minimum contacts” with the state in question in order to establish jurisdiction. The outer limit of this test is illustrated by Kulko v. Superior Court,917 in which the Court held that California could not obtain personal jurisdiction over a New York resident whose sole relevant contact with the state was to send his daughter to live with her mother in California.918 The argument was made that the father had “caused an effect” in the state by availing himself of the benefits and protections of California’s laws and by deriving an economic benefit in the lessened expense of maintaining the daughter in New York. The Court explained that, “[l]ike any standard that requires a determination of ‘reasonableness,’ the ‘minimum contacts’ test . . . is not susceptible of mechanical application; rather, the facts of each case must be weighed to determine whether the requisite ‘affiliating circumstances’ are present.”919 Although the Court noted that the “effects” test had been accepted as a test of contacts when wrongful activity outside a state causes injury within the state or when commercial activity affects state residents, the Court found that these factors were not present in this case, and any economic benefit to Kulko was derived in New York and not in California.920 As with many such cases, the decision was narrowly limited to its facts and does little to clarify the standards applicable to state jurisdiction over nonresidents.

Walden v. Fiore further articulated what “minimum contacts” are necessary to create jurisdiction as a result of the relationship between the defendant, the forum, and the litigation.921 In Walden, the plaintiffs, who were residents of Nevada, sued a law enforcement officer in federal court in Nevada as a result of an incident that occurred in an airport in Atlanta as the plaintiffs were attempting to board a connecting flight from Puerto Rico to Las Vegas. The Court held that the court in Nevada lacked jurisdiction because of insufficient contacts between the officer and the state relative to the alleged harm, as no part of the officer’s conduct occurred in Nevada. In so holding, the Court emphasized that the minimum contacts inquiry should not focus on the resulting injury to the plaintiffs; instead, the proper question is whether the defendant’s conduct connects him to the forum in a meaningful way.922


National Exchange Bank v. Wiley, 195 U.S. 257, 270 (1904); Iron Cliffs Co. v. Negaunee Iron Co., 197 U.S. 463, 471 (1905). back
McDonald v. Mabee, 243 U.S. 90, 91 (1917). Cf. Michigan Trust Co. v. Ferry, 228 U.S. 346 (1913). The rule has been strongly criticized but persists. Ehrenzweig, The Transient Rule of Personal Jurisdiction: The ‘Power’ Myth and Forum Conveniens, 65 YALE L. J. 289 (1956). But in Burnham v. Superior Court, 495 U.S. 604 (1990), the Court held that service of process on a nonresident physically present within the state satisfies due process regardless of the duration or purpose of the nonresident’s visit. back
Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457 (1940). back
McDonald v. Mabee, 243 U.S. 90 (1917). back
Rees v. City of Watertown, 86 U.S. (19 Wall.) 107 (1874); Coe v. Armour Fertilizer Works, 237 U.S. 413, 423 (1915); Griffin v. Griffin, 327 U.S. 220 (1946). back
Sugg v. Thornton, 132 U.S. 524 (1889); Riverside Mills v. Menefee, 237 U.S. 189, 193 (1915); Hess v. Pawloski, 274 U.S. 352, 355 (1927). See also Harkness v. Hyde, 98 U.S. 476 (1879); Wilson v. Seligman, 144 U.S. 41 (1892). back
Louisville & Nashville R.R. v. Schmidt, 177 U.S. 230 (1900); Western Loan & Savings Co. v. Butte & Boston Min. Co., 210 U.S. 368 (1908); Houston v. Ormes, 252 U.S. 469 (1920). See also Adam v. Saenger, 303 U.S. 59 (1938) (plaintiff suing defendants deemed to have consented to jurisdiction with respect to counterclaims asserted against him). back
State legislation which provides that a defendant who comes into court to challenge the validity of service upon him in a personal action surrenders himself to the jurisdiction of the court, but which allows him to dispute where process was served, is constitutional and does not deprive him of property without due process of law. In such a situation, the defendant may ignore the proceedings as wholly ineffective, and attack the validity of the judgment if and when an attempt is made to take his property thereunder. If he desires, however, to contest the validity of the court proceedings and he loses, it is within the power of a state to require that he submit to the jurisdiction of the court to determine the merits. York v. Texas, 137 U.S. 15 (1890); Kauffman v. Wootters, 138 U.S. 285 (1891); Western Life Indemnity Co. v. Rupp, 235 U.S. 261 (1914). back
Hess v. Pawloski, 274 U.S. 352 (1927); Wuchter v. Pizzutti, 276 U.S. 13 (1928); Olberding v. Illinois Cent. R.R., 346 U.S. 338, 341 (1953). back
Hess v. Pawloski, 274 U.S. 352, 356–57 (1927). back
274 U.S. at 355. See Flexner v. Farson, 248 U.S. 289, 293 (1919). back
Henry L. Doherty & Co. v. Goodman, 294 U.S. 623 (1935). back
326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945). back
436 U.S. 84 (1978). back
Kulko had visited the state twice, seven and six years respectively before initiation of the present action, his marriage occurring in California on the second visit, but neither the visits nor the marriage was sufficient or relevant to jurisdiction. 436 U.S. at 92–93. back
436 U.S. at 92. back
436 U.S. at 96–98. back
571 U.S. ___, No. 12–574, slip op. (2014). This type of “jurisdiction” is often referred to as “specific jurisdiction.” back
Id. at 6–8. back