This article takes a fresh look at general jurisdiction. The doctrine has been the source of considerable confusion and relative silence by the Supreme Court. In the 1980s, academic debate flourished as to the proper parameters of general jurisdiction, including Professor Lea Brilmayer’s seminal article entitled, A General Look at General Jurisdiction. In 2011, the Court broke its silence and decided two cases on personal jurisdiction, Goodyear and McIntyre. This article uses the two cases as a springboard for a comprehensive examination of general jurisdiction.
The article proposes a policy critique derived from the two factors critical to general jurisdiction: the relatedness of the claim to the defendant’s forum contacts, and the extent of contacts needed for jurisdiction over unrelated claims. The Court in International Shoe pronounced these two factors to be fundamental to minimum contacts analysis, and an examination of how they impact the fairness of jurisdiction reveals the policies underlying general jurisdiction as a whole. The two factors, relatedness and extent of contacts, impact the fairness of jurisdiction in four ways: they help to ensure reciprocity of benefits and burdens, protect predictability, limit state sovereignty, and promote convenience. In turn, these fairness concerns, when read in light of the Court’s precedent, help define the two critical factors themselves.
This article concludes that the proper test for relatedness asks whether there is meaningful causal link between the plaintiff’s claim and the defendant’s forum contacts. The proper test for the extent of contacts asks whether the defendant is “at home” in the forum state. The article concludes its “look” at general jurisdiction by evaluating and applying these tests in a variety of factual settings.