Monday, February 11, 2013

Burnham v. Superior Court of California case brief

Burnham v. Superior Court of California
495 U.S. 604

Petitioner nonresident sought review of a Court of Appeal of California, First Appellate District, decision that upheld service of process on petitioner in a divorce action and held that U.S. Const. amend. XIV did not prohibit the court from asserting in personum jurisdiction over him because he had the requisite "minimum contacts" with the state.

Petitioner nonresident challenged an appeals court decision that held that the forum state had a valid jurisdictional predicate for in personam jurisdiction over petitioner in a pending divorce action in the forum state because petitioner had been present in the forum state and personally served with process.

The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the appeals court. The forum state had jurisdiction over petitioner after he was served with process while temporarily in the state for activities unrelated to the pending divorce action.

-Where the "minimum contact" that is a substitute for physical presence consists of property ownership it must, like other minimum contacts, be related to the litigation. 
-The fiction that an assertion of jurisdiction over property is anything but an assertion of jurisdiction over an owner of property supports an ancient form without substantial modern justification. Its continued acceptance would serve only to allow state-court jurisdiction that is fundamentally unfair to a defendant. Not that all bases for the assertion of in personam jurisdiction must be treated alike and subjected to minimum contacts" analysis; but rather that quasi in rem jurisdiction and in personam jurisdiction, are really one and the same and must be treated alike, and leads to the conclusion that quasi in rem jurisdiction, that form of in personam jurisdiction based upon a "property ownership" contact and by definition unaccompanied by personal, in-state service, must satisfy litigation-relatedness

Due process under U.S. Const. amend. XIV was satisfied because nothing in the line of cases supporting the minimum contacts doctrine supported the proposition that physical presence was itself insufficient to establish jurisdiction.

OUTCOME: In a plurality opinion, the Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the appeals court. 

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