The Federal Court Across the Street: Constitutional Limits on Federal Court Assertions of Personal Jurisdiction
Twenty years ago, in a clear break with accepted theory, it was suggested that there were certain constitutional limitations on a federal court's authority to exercise personal jurisdiction. Such a departure from the traditional view might be expected to prompt an extensive examination of that issue by commentators. However, while assertions of personal jurisdiction by state courts have been the subject of intense scrutiny and ongoing constitutional refinements, this has not been the case regarding assertions of personal jurisdiction by federal courts. Generally, federal district courts sitting in diversity cases must look to personal jurisdiction limitations inherent in the state long arm statute where the federal court is located. This requirement is viewed as a statutory and perhaps constitutional mandate. Otherwise, federal courts which exercise federal question jurisdiction, or entertain issues where Congress has provided for nationwide service of process, suffer from no due process limits on their extraterritorial assertions of personal juris- diction. Given the historical development of state court personal jurisdiction, with its increased emphasis on the fairness and reasonableness of asserting jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant, it seems logically inconsistent that there has been no correspond- ing development with regard to the federal courts to protect the interest of a defendant who resides far from the federal forum or who lacks a substantial relationship to that forum. This article will explore the history of personal jurisdiction doctrine in this country. The article then will address the concerns which indicate that the fifth amendment to the United States Constitution compels considerations in federal courts similar to those considerations the fourteenth amendment imposes upon state courts. This article will also suggest that judicial failure to impose such limitations on federal personal jurisdiction is based upon rejected notions of "power" and "territoriality." Because state court personal jurisdiction determinations have been the principal arena for development of personal jurisdiction doctrine in this country, the article will first address those determinations. Since the development of state court personal jurisdiction doctrine has been comprehensively dealt with elsewhere, however, it will be dealt with only briefly herein.
Pamela J. Stephens,
The Federal Court Across the Street: Constitutional Limits on Federal Court Assertions of Personal Jurisdiction,
U. Rich. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.richmond.edu/lawreview/vol18/iss4/2
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