Brief Fact Summary. Dennis Burnham (P) and his wife decided to separate while residing in New Jersey. At that time Mrs. Burnham shifted her residence to California with the children. There she filed for divorce, and served the papers on Mr. Burnham (P) while he was visiting California.
Synopsis of Rule of Law.
The jurisdiction of a state court can be extended to nonresidents who are bodily present in the state.
The real syllabus of the passage quoted is, that a process of law, which is not otherwise forbidden, must be taken to be due process of law, if it can show the sanction of settled usage both in England and in this country; but it by no means follows that nothing else can be due process of law.View Full Point of Law
Issue. The issue here is whether state courts can exercise jurisdiction over non-residents who happen to be present in person in the state.
(Scalia, J.). Yes. State courts do have jurisdiction based only on the physical presence, even in the case of nonresidents. Jurisdiction based on physical presence is one of the historical traditions which define the due process standard, that is, that none of the rights of any citizen shall be abrogated without sufficient intimation and fair opportunity to defend themselves in law. This being so, physical presence is of a necessity enough to ensure jurisdiction. The decision of the State court was affirmed.
(Brennan, J.) The historical value of all jurisdiction principles are important, including the physical presence in jurisdiction ruling, but this traditional importance is not sufficient on its own to arrive at a fixed conclusion of their continuous constitutional value.
(Stevens, J.) The decision was agreed to in view of the historical evidence and proof of common agreement supplied by Justice Scalia, the points brought forth in favor of fairness in legal proceedings by Justice Brennan, and the argument of common sense on the part of Justice White, so that there was no opposition to the judgment.
Discussion. The case of Helicopteros Nacionales de Columbia v. Hall, 466 U.S. at 414 (1984) was referred to by Justice Scalia. In this case the Supreme Court held that due process was served even if a state exercised jurisdiction over a corporation provided that there were sufficient systematic organized contacts between the state and the foreign corporation. But only one holding supported this statement, that is, a corporate president present and acting as such in the forum state was served with a summons, in Perkins v. Benguet Consolidated Mining Co., 342 U.S. 437 (1952). This rule may be a special rule permitting jurisdiction over corporations in the presence of continuous and organized contacts with the state, even with regard to claims unrelated to the activities in the forum. This kind of jurisdiction is different from the case of jurisdiction based only on the state’s power over the person of the defendant.