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Civil Procedure


 
 

Jurisdiction and Venue

In order to hear and decide a case, a court must have (1) jurisdiction over the parties involved (personal jurisdiction); (2) jurisdiction over the subject matter involved (subject matter jurisdiction); and (3) proper venue.

 

Personal Jurisdiction

Three Types of Personal Jursidiction

  1. In personam jurisdiction: Jurisdiction over the defendant’s person (i.e., individual, company, or other entity) because the defendant has ties to the forum state.

  2. In rem jurisdiction: Jurisdiction over claims made about a piece of property or a particular status within the forum state (e.g., an action to quiet title to real estate or an action for divorce).

  3. Quasi in rem jurisdiction: An alternative to personal jurisdiction, whereby judicial attachment of a defendant’s property located within the forum state is used as a way of securing jurisdiction over the defendant.

Requirements for Establishing Personal Jurisdiction

A federal court will apply the personal jurisdiction rules of the state in which it sits. The traditional bases of personal jurisdiction are:

  1. Consent: The defendant may consent to jurisdiction.

  2. Presence and in-state service: Jurisdiction exists over a defendant if he is personally served while physically within the state in which the court sits.

  3. Domicile: A state has jurisdiction over a defendant if the defendant’s domicile (or current dwelling place) is located within that state, even though the defendant may be temporarily out of the state.

    Note: Corporations are subject to personal jurisdiction in all states where they are incorporated and in the one state where they maintain a principal place of business.

  4. Minimum contacts: Allows service of process on a non-consenting defendant who is not within a state when such service is fair (i.e., when the defendant has a requisite amount of continuous and systematic minimum contacts with the state such that he would foresee the possibility of being sued in that state).

  5. Non-resident motorists statutes: Allows a state to have jurisdiction over non-resident motorists involved in or causing accidents in that state.

  6. In-state tortious conduct: Allows for jurisdiction over nonresident persons committing tortious actions within a state.

  7. Owners of in-state property: States have jurisdiction over claims involving in-state property, even if the property owner is a nonresident or absent from the state.

  8. Long-arm statute: Allows a court to have personal jurisdiction over an out-of-state, non-consenting defendant if the defendant has the requisite minimum contacts with the state and if it would be fair to do so.

  9. Agency: A person may be sued in the forum state if he designates a third party to receive service of process on his behalf.

  10. Bulge rule: If the state long-arm statute does not allow for personal jurisdiction, the federal courts have jurisdiction, even absent “minimum contacts,” if:

    1. The defendant was served within 100 miles of the courthouse; and

    2. The defendant is a third-party defendant or if the defendant is an “indispensable party” (a party necessary for the litigation to continue).

P lives in Florida and sells widgets in Florida, parts of Michigan, New York, and Washington, D.C. While on a business trip in New York, P is run over by D, a citizen of New York. P brings suit against D in Florida for his injuries. Does the Florida court have jurisdiction over D?

  • No. The court does not have jurisdiction. D is not physically present in Florida, nor has he formed any deliberate relationship to Florida. D also has not derived any benefits from Florida and, consequently, cannot fairly be expected to be sued in Florida. There are no minimum contacts to give the Florida court jurisdiction over D.

 
 

Subject Matter Jursidiction (SMJ)

Federal courts have limited subject matter jurisdiction, which means that they can only hear certain types of cases. The court must have SMJ over every asserted claim for the case to go forward. SMJ cannot be obtained by consent.

Establishing Subject Matter Jurisdiction

  1. Diversity jurisdiction (USCA §1332): Federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction over suits between citizens of different states (i.e., with different domiciles) if the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. Complete diversity is required for this type of jurisdiction. In other words, no plaintiff can have the same citizenship as any defendant.

  2. Federal question jurisdiction (USCA §1331): Federal courts also have subject matter jurisdiction over all claims arising under federal law. The federal question involved must be integral to the plaintiff’s case and must be discernible in the complaint for the court to have this type of jurisdiction. This is known as the well pleaded complaint requirement.

  3. Supplemental jurisdiction (USCA §1367): Allows parties in a federal court case to add state law claims, even though the state law claims could not have been brought by themselves (i.e., they fail to satisfy either federal question or diversity jurisdiction requirements). Supplemental jurisdiction will exist only when the non-diverse state claim(s) “forms part of the same case or controversy” as another claim in the action (i.e., it must arise of a common nucleus of operative facts).

    Note: USCA §1367(b) prohibits a plaintiff both from bringing non-diverse claims against parties under Rules 14 (impleader), 19 (joinder), 20 (permissive joinder), or 24 (intervention), and from bringing non-diverse claims against other parties if the plaintiff himself was joined under Rule 19 or 24.

P, from Florida, sues D, from Florida, in a New York federal court. Is there diversity?

  • No. There is no diversity of citizenship here because both the plaintiff and defendant are from the same state. The New York federal court cannot hear the case.

P, from Michigan, sues D1, from Washington, D.C., and D2, also from Washington, D.C., in a D.C. federal court. Is there diversity?

  • Yes, diversity exists in this case. The plaintiff and the defendants are from different states. It does not matter that two of the defendants are citizens of the same state. If D1 and D2 were from different states, then there would be complete diversity of citizenship.

 
 

Venue

Proper venue requires that a case be brought before the appropriate federal district or else face dismissal.

Options for Laying Venue in Diversity Cases, USCA §1391 (A)

  1. Plaintiff may lay venue in any district where all the defendants reside, as long as all reside within the same state.

  2. Plaintiff may also lay venue in any judicial district where a substantial part of the relevant events occurred, or where a substantial part of the property that gave rise to the action is located.

  3. Plaintiff may lay venue in any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction at the time the suit is filed.

Options for Laying Venue in Non-Diversity Cases, USCA §1391 (B)

  1. Plaintiff may lay venue in any district where all the defendants reside, as long as all reside within the same state.

  2. Plaintiff may also lay venue in any judicial district where a substantial part of the relevant events occurred, or where a substantial part of the property that gave rise to the action is located.

  3. Finally, plaintiff may lay venue in any judicial district in which a single defendant may be found, if there is no district in which the action may otherwise be brought.