Brief Fact Summary.
Defendant appeared to challenge a Missouri federal court’s personal jurisdiction and declined to defend the case on its merits. The Missouri federal court entered a judgment against Defendant. Defendant challenged the judgment in Iowa federal court, asserting that the Missouri federal court lacked personal jurisdiction. The Iowa federal court ruled in favor of Defendant and dismissed the action. Plaintiff appealed. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
A party may not challenge the judgment of a court in another state by asserting a lack of personal jurisdiction after the party has already appeared in that state to challenge jurisdiction.
Baldwin (Plaintiff) originally sued the Iowa State Traveling Men’s Association (Defendant) in Missouri state court, and the action was removed to federal court in Missouri. There, Defendant appeared in federal court to challenge the court’s personal jurisdiction. The federal court in Missouri refused to dismiss the action for lack of personal jurisdiction, but Defendant declined to defend the case on the merits in Missouri. A judgment was entered against Defendant. Defendant later challenged the judgment in federal court in Iowa, still asserting that the federal court in Missouri lacked personal jurisdiction to render judgment against it. The federal court in Iowa agreed with Defendant, dismissing the action. Plaintiff appealed to the United States Court of Appeals. The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari.
Whether a party may challenge the judgment of a court in another state by asserting a lack of personal jurisdiction after it has already appeared in that state to challenge jurisdiction.
No. The court of appeals’ ruling is reversed and the case is remanded for reinstatement of the Missouri federal court’s judgment. A party may not challenge the judgment of a court in another state by asserting a lack of personal jurisdiction after the party has already appeared in that state to challenge jurisdiction.
It is not permissible for a party to litigate the same question twice, and to allow a party to challenge a court’s jurisdiction on the same grounds in two different states constitutes such re-litigation. The Association could have remained in federal court in Missouri to defend the case on the merits, and then appealed the trial court’s determination of personal jurisdiction over the Association. Alternatively, it could have refused to appear in the Missouri federal court in the first place and simply challenged the Missouri court’s jurisdiction in Iowa. It did neither, attempting instead to litigate the issue of Missouri’s jurisdiction in two different states, which is impermissible under federal law.