The U.S. Chamber urged the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse a California Supreme Court decision that ignored the principled distinction between general personal jurisdiction and specific personal jurisdiction. The Chamber’s amicus brief explained that some lower courts have stretched specific jurisdiction far beyond the bounds established by the Supreme Court’s precedents, applying the “specific jurisdiction” label to what is in effect a new form of general jurisdiction.
This is such a case. The California Supreme Court held that California courts could specific exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-California defendant regarding claims brought by 575 non-California plaintiffs that have no connection to California. The California Supreme Court majority erroneously concluded that subjecting petitioner to suit in California on those claims would not violate due process, based on two factors: (1) the majority’s conclusion that petitioner’s contacts with California were part of its nationwide marketing and sales efforts, and (2) the determination that joinder of the 575 out-of-state plaintiffs to 86 in-state plaintiffs made “reasonable” the assertion of jurisdiction with respect to the out-of-state claims.
The Chamber’s amicus brief argued that the California Supreme Court’s reasoning is bizarre. A defendant’s contacts with a forum cannot be deemed “suit-related” when, as here, they are wholly unnecessary to the plaintiff’s claim—such that the plaintiff could still prevail on his or her claim if the defendant’s contacts with the forum State did not exist. And the addition of in-State plaintiffs cannot magically render “reasonable” the assertion of jurisdiction with respect to other, separate claims asserted by out-of-State plaintiffs with separate claims. The California Supreme Court’s new form of jurisdiction—much closer in real-world effect to “general” than to “specific”—is squarely inconsistent with the holdings and rationale of the U.S. Supreme Court’s specific jurisdiction decisions.
The Chamber was joined on the brief by the California Chamber of Commerce, American Tort Reform Association, and Civil Justice Association of California.
Andrew J. Pincus, Archis A. Parasharami, and Matthew A. Waring of Mayer Brown LLP served as counsel for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on behalf of the U.S. Chamber Litigation Center.