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Personal Jurisdiction

As noted this morning, the US Supreme Court took up one civil case for full briefing and argument, Walden v. Fiore, 12-574.  The case is a Bivens action against a DEA agent.  The specific issue before the Court is the jurisdiction of a federal court in Nevada over a Georgia officer for events happening in Georgia.  The only connection to Nevada is the officers' knowledge that the plaintiffs lived there. The plaintiffs were professional gamblers traveling with a large stash of cash.  The Ninth Circuit majority opinion concludes:
Walden seized all the large amount of money Fiore and Gipson were carrying with them as they travelled from San Juan to Las Vegas via Atlanta. Although Fiore and Gipson sent Walden, from Nevada, documentation establishing the legitimate sources of their funds, he persisted in seeking forfeiture of their money. Walden's intentional acts* with regard to the false probable cause affidavit and the consequent delay in returning their money were expressly aimed at Nevada and so satisfy the requirements for personal jurisdiction. As to the search and seizure claim, we are remanding it to the district court for the exercise of discretion with regard to pendent personal jurisdiction.
Judge Ikuta dissented.

The majority's decision today unwisely broadens the scope of personal jurisdiction, erroneously rejects the district court's adherence to "traditional practice" in favor of its own "[f]reeform notions" of fairness, id. at 2787 (plurality opinion), and holds that Walden is subject to the jurisdiction of a Nevada court despite his having no contacts whatsoever to that state in connection with plaintiffs' Fourth Amendment claim.  Because "those who live or operate primarily outside a State have a due process right not to be subjected to judgment in its courts as a general matter," id., I dissent.

* The merits of the case aside, this statement brings up one of my pet peeves in opinion writing.  When a case comes up on appeal without a trial, the court notes briefly that because of the procedural posture it assumes the allegations of the nonprevailing party to be true, and for the rest of the opinion the court recites the most defamatory allegations against the other party as if they were true.  The assumption is lost on many readers, and the case is thereafter discussed as if the accused party really did whatever the accusation says.  It takes a little more care and effort to say throughout an opinion that this is a mere allegation, not a fact, but I think it is worth it to avoid trashing the reputation of a person who may be falsely accused.

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