Hastings Law Journal


Peter Singleton


Personal jurisdiction is an area of unquestioned doctrinal significance. Personal jurisdiction is also of great practical importance to litigators, as well as to the trial court judges who need to apply personal jurisdiction doctrines to cases brought before them.

The Ninth Circuit has issued dozens of published personal jurisdiction opinions which have continuing precedential significance. This body of case law, while often well argued and well-reasoned, is at times confusing and even conflicting. This presents substantial problems for Ninth Circuit panels attempting to follow precedent, let alone for district courts who are attempting to apply the law, litigators attempting to argue the law, and litigants attempting to predict outcomes.

Ironically, given its importance for Ninth Circuit litigants, litigators, and courts, and for personal jurisdiction law in general, there is no single source where Ninth Circuit personal jurisdiction law has been fully, and adequately, characterized. This Note attempts to make a small step in that direction-to state certain major holdings of Ninth Circuit personal jurisdiction case law, tracing the development and current state of the law, and noting unresolved issues.

This Note also suggests that within the Ninth Circuit, the personal jurisdiction inquiry is best conceived of as two sequential balancing tests. First, the court must weigh the non-resident's contacts with the forum against the relationship between those contacts and the cause of action, in order to make a preliminary finding on personal jurisdiction. If the court cannot decide the question of jurisdiction on the first inquiry alone, the court should then proceed to the second phase of the personal jurisdiction inquiry and assess its provisional finding against the question of reasonableness.

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