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Walden v. Fiore

United States Supreme Court

February 25, 2014


Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Alito, Sotomayor, Kagan.


Argued November 4, 2013.

Syllabus [*]

Petitioner Walden, a Georgia police officer working as a deputized Drug Enforcement Administration agent at a Georgia airport, searched respondents and seized a large amount of cash. Respondents allege that after they returned to their Nevada residence, petitioner helped draft a false probable cause affidavit in support of the funds' forfeiture and forwarded it to a United States Attorney's Office in Georgia. In the end, no forfeiture complaint was filed, and respondents' funds were returned. Respondents filed a tort suit against petitioner in Federal District Court in Nevada. The District Court dismissed the suit, finding that the Georgia search and seizure did not establish a basis to exercise personal jurisdiction in Nevada. The Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the District Court could properly exercise jurisdiction because petitioner had submitted the false probable cause affidavit with the knowledge that it would affect persons with significant Nevada connections.

[134 S.Ct. 1118] Held:

The District Court lacked personal jurisdiction over petitioner. Pp. 1121-1126, 188 L.Ed.2d, at 19-24.

(a) The Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause constrains a State's authority to bind a nonresident defendant to a judgment of its courts, World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 291. 100 S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed.2d 490, and requires that the nonresident have "certain minimum contacts" with the forum State, International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95. The inquiry into the "minimum contacts" necessary to create specific jurisdiction focuses "on the relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation." Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 465 U.S. 770, 775, 104 S.Ct. 1473, 79 L.Ed.2d 790. For a State to exercise jurisdiction consistent with due process, that relationship must arise out of contacts that the "defendant himself creates with the forum, Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 475, 105 S.Ct. 2174, 85 L.Ed.2d 528, and must be analyzed with regard to the defendant's contacts with the forum itself, not with persons residing there, see, e.g., International Shoe, supra, at 319, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95. The plaintiff cannot be the only link between the defendant and the forum. These same principles apply when intentional torts are involved. See Colder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783, 788-789, 104 S.Ct. 1482, 79 L.Ed.2d 804. Pp. 1121-1124, 188 L.Ed.2d, at 19-22.

(b) Petitioner lacks the "minimal contacts" with Nevada that are a prerequisite to the exercise of jurisdiction over him. No part of petitioner's course of conduct occurred in Nevada, and he formed no jurisdictionally relevant contacts with that forum. The Ninth Circuit reached its contrary conclusion by improperly shifting the analytical focus from petitioner's contacts with the forum to his contacts with respondents, obscuring the reality that none of petitioner's challenged conduct had anything to do with Nevada itself. Respondents emphasize that they suffered the "injury" caused by the delayed return of their funds while residing in Nevada, but Calder made clear that mere injury to a forum resident is not a sufficient connection to the forum. The proper question is whether the defendant's conduct connects him to the forum in a meaningful way: Here, respondents' claimed injury does not evince such a connection. The injury occurred in Nevada simply because that is where respondents chose to be when they desired to use the seized funds. Other possible contacts noted by the Ninth Circuit-that respondents' Nevada attorney contacted petitioner in Georgia, that cash seized in Georgia originated in Nevada, and that funds were returned to respondents in Nevada- are ultimately unavailing. Pp. 1124-1126, 188 L.Ed.2d, at 22-24.

688 F.3d 558, reversed.

Jeffrey S. Bucholtz, Washington, DC, for Petitioner.

Melissa Arbus Sherry, for the United States as amicus curiae, by special leave of the Court, supporting the petitioner.

Thomas C. Goldstein, for the respondents.

Timothy H. Lee, King & Spalding LLP. Atlanta, GA, Jeffrey S. Bucholtz, Counsel of Record, Daniel S. Epps, Carolyn M. Sweeney, King & Spalding LLP. Washington, DC, for Petitioner.

Thomas C. Goldstein, Counsel of Record, Kevin K. Russell, Goldstein & Russell, P.C., Washington, DC, Robert A. Norsesian, Thea Sankiewicz, Nersesian & Sankiewiez, Las ...

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