Baude Analyzes Walden v. Fiore on SCOTUSblog

Opinion analysis: The boundaries of specific jurisdiction
William Baude
SCOTUSblog
February 26, 2014

What happens in Las Vegas may stay in Las Vegas, but the inverse is also true.  In Walden v. Fiore, decided yesterday, the Court unanimously concluded that a pair of professional gamblers from Nevada could not force a Georgia law enforcement agent to litigate against them in Nevada, because the agent had never had connections to that state.

The background:  Officer Anthony Walden had seized a large amount of money from Gina Fiore and Keith Gipson when they were changing planes in Atlanta.  After they returned home to Nevada, they and their lawyer eventually got their money back — but only after getting the runaround, they say, from Walden.  Fiore and Gipson sued Walden in a federal court in Nevada, which prompted the question whether Nevada could exercise jurisdiction over him.  The Ninth Circuit had said that it could.

In a unanimous opinion written by Justice Thomas, the Court reversed the Ninth Circuit.  Jurisdiction depends, it said, on the defendant’s (i.e., Walden’s) contact with the forum.  Moreover, it is not enough that he may have harmed someone who resides in the forum.  He must have contact with the forum itself, not simply with the plaintiffs.  For these propositions the Court cited settled precedents.  Walden’s only contact with Nevada was the fact that Fiore and Gipson happened to live there, so there was no jurisdiction.

Faculty: 
William Baude