9 Justices Agree On Personal Jurisdiction in Kiobel!!!

April 17th, 2013

I am not too concerned about extraterritorially  but personal jurisdiction–that’s where it’s at. For the first time in a while, the entire Court agrees on personal juridiction! Both Roberts and Breyer concur in Kiobel that personal jurisdiction does not lie.

Roberts addresses personal jurisdiction, very briefly towards the end of his opinion:

Corporations are often present in many countries, and it would reach too far to say that mere corporate presence suffices.

Breyer agrees with Roberts, and adds much more citing Goodyear v. Brown:

Applying these jurisdictional principles to this case, however, I agree with the Court that jurisdiction does not lie. The defendants are two foreign corporations. Their shares, like those of many foreign corporations, are traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Their only presence in the United States consists of an office in New York City (actually owned by a separate but affiliated company) that helps to explain their business to potential investors. See Supp. Brief for Petitioners 4, n. 3 (citing Wiwa v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 226 F. 3d 88, 94 (CA2 2000)); App. 55. The plaintiffs are not United States nationals but nationals of other nations. The conduct at issue took place abroad. And the plaintiffs allege, not that the defendants directly engaged in acts of torture, genocide, or the equivalent, but that they helped others (who are not American nationals) to do so. Under these circumstances, even if the New York office were a sufficient basis for asserting general jurisdiction, but see Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S. A. v. Brown, 564 U. S. ___ (2011), it would be farfetched to believe, based solely upon the defendants’ minimal and indirect American presence, that this legal action helps to vindi-cate a distinct American interest, such as in not providing a safe harbor for an “enemy of all mankind.” Thus I agree with the Court that here it would “reach too far to say” that such “mere corporate presence suffices.” Ante, at 14.

CivPro nerds, rejoice. We have 9 Justices who agree on a question of personal jurisdiction.