Academic journal article Brigham Young University Law Review

Wonky Walden: The Dizzying New Personal Jurisdiction Rule

Academic journal article Brigham Young University Law Review

Wonky Walden: The Dizzying New Personal Jurisdiction Rule

Article excerpt

I. Introduction

Even prior to Walden v. Fiore, determining if a court had authority over an out-of-state defendant was a "labyrinth with no exit."1 Over the years, that labyrinth has mutated. Born of federalist principles in the 1870s, personal jurisdiction analysis has long since shifted toward ensuring defendants' due process rights.2 With its evolving core purpose, it is little wonder that nailing down appropriate applications on the fringes is difficult.

Consistent with this difficulty, some commentators have criticized the United States Supreme Court as "incapable of providing a coherent vision of the law of personal jurisdiction,"3 crediting the Court for producing "an ever-widening doctrinal morass" where "fundamental principles [are] submerged beneath mechanistic formulas that are both too broad and too narrow."4 As a result, due process has become "nothing more than a complex web of fact-specific outcomes."5

Walden v. Fiore is the court's most recent foray into this morass. No one claims that Walden clarifies the personal jurisdiction conundrum; at best, the case is seen as a dud.6 But Walden is not a dud. Walden injects dizzying twists and turns into the minimum contacts maze.7 First, Walden has compounded any pre-existing complexity concerning the proper roles of plaintiff residency and damage location.8 Second, Walden's express language contradicts commonsensical trends toward expanded personal jurisdiction, inviting courts to err on the side of denying personal jurisdiction.9

The world is shrinking. Advances in technology and transportation are dissolving interstate jurisdictional burdens.10 These advances had naturally lent to expanding state power to pull in outof-staters to protect resident people and property.11 Then Walden appeared.

This Note exposes Walden's unappreciated mess. Part II addresses how Walden should have come out differently under precedent. Part III showcases the disarray that is Walden's new personal jurisdiction rule. Part IV highlights the failure of lower courts to appreciate Walden's departure from the previously understood role of plaintiff residency and damage location in jurisdictional analysis. Part V recommends a return to pre-Walden analysis-the lesser of evils-and bolsters that argument by looking to the domestic doctrines of other Western countries, specifically Canada and England. Part VI concludes.

II. Pre- Walden Analysis Applied to Walden

The Court in Walden v. Fiore did not find personal jurisdiction to exist in Nevada when Georgia officers allegedly intentionally confiscated and unlawfully delayed the return of thousands of dollars by falsifying an affidavit when they knew or should have known the money rightfully belonged to Nevada gamblers, and consequently could not be used in Nevada or anywhere else over the course of seven months.12

If the Supreme Court had simply followed precedent-as it claimed it did13-the Court would likely have found the defendant to have sufficient minimum contacts. First, it appears that the officers who allegedly created the false affidavit knew the gamblers' Nevada residency by the time they falsified the document. Second, the resulting delay in the return of the gamblers' cash caused foreseeable harm in Nevada.

A. Pre-Walden Tortious Minimum Contacts Analysis Counted Contacts with State Residents and Damage Location

Prior to Walden v. Fiore, it was well accepted, even at the Supreme Court itself, that plaintiff residency was not only a relevant but a potentially pivotal part of the minimum contacts inquiry for intentional torts. While plaintiff residency alone has not been determinative, there is little doubt that plaintiff residency had the power to push the minimum contacts pendulum toward personal jurisdiction-especially when that residency was known and the ultimate damages took place in the residency state.

Perhaps the most striking proof that plaintiff residency matters in tort minimum contacts analysis is the following line from Calder v. …

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