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Statutory Limits on Personal Jurisdiction


Other states, however, have not given their courts blanket authority to exercise personal jurisdiction to the limits of due process. Instead, these states have passed “long-arm” statutes, which authorize their courts to exercise jurisdiction over defendants based on specific types of contact with the forum state. Historically, these “enumerated act” long-arm statutes were passed in reaction to International Shoe and its progeny. Once International Shoe and succeeding cases established that certain types of contacts were constitutionally sufficient bases for exercising personal jurisdiction over nonresidents, the states adopted long-arm statutes to authorize their courts to hear cases arising out of such contacts. Such enumerated act long-arm statutes frequently authorize state courts to exercise jurisdiction over cases arising out of contacts such as committing a tortious act within the state, transacting business in the state, or owning property in the state. A fairly typical provision is the Uniform Interstate and International Procedure Act, 13 U.L.A. 355 (West 1986), which served as the model for the long-arm statutes of some 20 states. It is reproduced on p. 33 for use in the examples in this chapter.

Visually the relation of such statutes to the due process clause is represented by Figure 2-2. Such provisions convey a good deal of the jurisdiction authorized by the due process clause, but not necessarily all of it. Some areas remain (represented by the shaded area in the diagram) in which jurisdiction could be exercised, but the statute does not authorize it.

Students often ask why a state would enact an enumerated act long-arm when the California model is simpler and broader. One reason is historical: The first modern long-arm statute, the Illinois statute, used the enumerated act approach, and many states later used it as a model. Even if California’s mellow approach is preferable in the abstract, many states are reluctant to tinker with statutes that have worked satisfactorily for years and have been construed repeatedly by their courts. In addition, the list of jurisdictionally sufficient acts in enumerated act long-arm statutes provides some guidance to nonresidents about the jurisdictional consequences of their choice to conduct particular activities in the state. Finally, some legislatures may not want to authorize jurisdiction in every case that barely passes constitutional muster. The enumerated act statutes give courts some leeway to reject jurisdiction in cases having little connection to the state, without making constitutional pronouncements.[1]

Long-arm statutes take their colorful name from their primary purpose, which is to reach out of the state to call nonresident defendants back into the state to defend lawsuits. Even though a defendant has left the forum state before he is sued (or in some cases has never been in the state at all), he may be required to defend a suit there under the International Shoe analysis if the suit arises out of his prior contacts with the forum. Legislatures tend to grant such long-arm jurisdiction liberally since it is usually invoked by plaintiffs who live in the state and prefer to sue at home.

[1]. A few states have taken the curious approach of adding a California-type, anything- constitutional-goes provision to their enumerated act statute. This seems calculated to confuse: Why specify enumerated acts that support jurisdiction, if everything else within due process limits does too? For a defense of this strategy, see K. Beyler, The Illinois Long-Arm Statute: Background, Meaning and Needed Repairs, 12 S. Ill. L.J. 293, 412-414 (1988).

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