To access this feature, please Log In or Register for your Casebriefs Account.

Add to Library




Burnham v. Superior Court of California

Citation. 495 U.S. 604, 110 S.Ct. 2105, 109 Ed.2d 631 (1990)
Law Students: Don’t know your Studybuddy Pro login? Register here

Brief Fact Summary.

Petitioner was served with California court summons while temporarily in California on business. Petitioner moved to quash the summons, arguing the court lacked personal jurisdiction.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

Consistent with due process, state courts have personal jurisdiction over nonresidents when they are personally served while physically present within the forum state.


Dennis Burnham (Petitioner) and his wife, New Jersey residents, agreed to divorce in 1987 for irreconcilable differences. Mrs. Burnham moved to California with their two children. Petitioner filed for divorce in New Jersey but never served Mrs. Burnham. While on a business trip in California, Petitioner visited his children and Mrs. Burnham served him with California court summons and divorce papers. Petitioner moved to quash the summons on the ground that California lacked personal jurisdiction over him because he did not have minimum contacts with the forum state.


Can a state exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant who was served while temporarily in the state on unrelated business?


Yes, the forum state has personal jurisdiction. The opinion of the lower court is affirmed.


Justice White

Justice White agreed that personal service of process in the forum state confers personal jurisdiction and that this procedure is supported by tradition.

Justice Brennan

Justice Brennan agreed that the state had personal jurisdiction over a defendant personally served while voluntarily in the forum state. He disagreed, however, that the rule should prevail because of tradition and argued that it should be upheld based on an analysis of fairness.

Justice Stevens

Justice Stevens concurred with the judgment of the Court to affirm the lower court, but disagreed with the rule developed by the Court. He argued that the rule was overbroad and could lead to unintended consequences.


The Court concluded that California did have personal jurisdiction over the Petitioner based on the firmly established American legal tradition that states have personal jurisdiction over nonresidents physically present in the state. No case has held or suggested that being personally served in the forum state is insufficient to establish personal jurisdiction.

Create New Group

Casebriefs is concerned with your security, please complete the following