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Chapter 2


This Chapter examines “jurisdiction over the parties,” that is, a court’s power to decide a case between the particular parties before it. The most important concepts in this Chapter are:

  • Minimum contacts: Whether the defendant is an individual or a corporation, the court may proceed only if D has “minimum contacts” with the state in which the court sits. This is true for all state-court actions and most federal-court actions.
  • Voluntariness: Usually a corporation will be found to have the requisite minimum contacts with the forum state only if the corporation has somehow voluntarily sought to do business in, or with the residents of, the forum state.
    •   “At home” requirement for general jurisdiction: If the plaintiff’s claim against a corporate defendant does not involve that corporation’s activities inside the forum state (i.e., the suit is said to be based on “general” rather than “specific” jurisdiction), the corporation can’t be required to defend unless the corporation is “at home” in the forum state, meaning it’s either incorporated there or has its principal place of business there.
  • Limits on service of process: As a general rule, in federal cases (both diversity actions and federal question cases), service of process may be made only: (1) within the territorial limits of the state in which the District Court sits; or (2) anywhere else permitted by the state law of the state where the District Court sits.
  • Notice: Even if the court has authority to judge the dispute between the parties or over the property before it, the court may not proceed unless D received adequate notice of the case against him.
    • Reasonableness test: In order for D to have received adequate notice, it is not necessary that he actually have learned of the suit. Rather, the procedures used to alert him must have been reasonably likely to inform him, even if they actually failed to do so.
  • Venue: In addition to requirements of jurisdiction, requirements of venue must also be satisfied. Venue refers to the place within a jurisdiction in which a particular action may be brought. In a state-court action, venue determines in what county or district of the state the action may be brought. In federal actions, venue determines which federal district court may try the action.


A. Two kinds of jurisdiction: Before a court can decide a case, it must have jurisdiction over the parties as well as over the subject matter. That is, it must have jurisdiction not only to decide the kind of case before it (subject matter jurisdiction) but also to decide a case between the particular parties, or concerning the property, before it.

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