Walden v. Fiore
571 U.S. ___ (2014)

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Justia Opinion Summary
Walden, a Georgia police officer working as a DEA agent at a Georgia airport, searched plaintiffs and seized a large amount of cash. Plaintiffs claim that after they returned to their Nevada residence, Walden helped draft a false probable cause affidavit in support of forfeiture and forwarded it to a Georgia office of the U.S. Attorney. No forfeiture complaint was filed and the funds were returned. Plaintiffs filed a tort suit in a Nevada District Court. The district court dismissed, finding that the Georgia search and seizure did not establish a basis for personal jurisdiction in Nevada. The Ninth Circuit reversed, reasoning that Walden submitted the affidavit with the knowledge that it would affect persons with significant Nevada connections. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over Walden. The Due Process Clause limits state authority to bind a nonresident defendant to a judgment of its courts, requiring that the nonresident have “certain minimum contacts” with the forum state. For a state to exercise jurisdiction consistent with due process, a relationship must arise out of contacts that the defendant himself created with the forum itself, not with persons residing there. The plaintiff cannot be the only link between the defendant and the forum. Walden lacks those “minimal contacts” with Nevada. None of his conduct occurred in Nevada, and he formed no jurisdictionally relevant contacts with that forum. Mere injury to a forum resident is not a sufficient connection to the forum. The injury occurred in Nevada simply because that is where plaintiffs chose to be when they desired to use the seized funds. The Court also rejected an argument based on the origin of the funds.

NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321 .

SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES

Syllabus

WALDEN v. FIORE et al.

certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the ninth circuit

No. 12–574. Argued November 4, 2013—Decided February 25, 2014

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.

Held: The District Court lacked personal jurisdiction over petitioner. Pp. 5–14.

     (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 , and requires that the nonresident have “certain minimum contacts” with the forum State, International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U. S. 310 . 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 . 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 , 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. The plaintiff cannot be the only link between the defendant and the forum. These same principles apply when intentional torts are involved. See Calder v. Jones, 465 U. S. 783 –789. Pp. 5–10.

     (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. 11–14.

688 F. 3d 558, reversed.

     Thomas, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

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