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Relationship Problems: Pendent Personal Jurisdiction after Bristol-myers Squibb


The Supreme Court’s recent decision in Bristol-Myers Squibb Co. v. Superior Court of California provides an opportunity to reexamine pendent personal jurisdiction in the federal courts. There are two types of pendent personal jurisdiction. The first form, embraced by federal courts since 1957, is pendent claim personal jurisdiction: when a court has personal jurisdiction over a defendant as to one anchor claim, it can exercise personal jurisdiction with respect to related claims that it could not adjudicate in the anchor claim’s absence. This type is especially common where courts have personal jurisdiction over the defendant because of a statute with a nationwide service of process provision, like the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The second type is new. After Bristol-Myers, some courts have maintained pendent party personal jurisdiction: where a court has specific personal jurisdiction over the defendant as to a particular claim by one plaintiff, it can exercise personal jurisdiction as to similar claims brought by different plaintiffs.

This Article offers an analytical framework to evaluate the legitimacy of pendent personal jurisdiction. First, it examines the doctrine’s history and evolution, ultimately criticizing the federal courts for expanding their own jurisdiction without articulating a valid legal warrant. Second, it considers the potential sources of authority for federal courts to wield pendent personal jurisdiction, concluding that all current federal court assertions of pendent personal jurisdiction depend on state long-arm statutes, as limited by the Fourteenth Amendment. In the process, this Article seeks to clarify how the federal courts issue service of process and exercise personal jurisdiction. 

This Article then assesses whether pendent personal jurisdiction passes muster under the Court’s personal jurisdiction cases. The Court’s decision in Bristol-Myers, justified by interstate federalism principles, casts doubt on pendent personal jurisdiction because it forbids a court from adjudicating claims unconnected to the forum it sits in. Pendent personal jurisdiction often allows courts to breach that rule. Therefore, this Article argues that both pendent party and pendent claim personal jurisdiction are forbidden. This Article also provides broader insights into personal jurisdiction’s relatedness element and interstate federalism’s role in limiting the adjudicative reach of the nation’s courts within a system of multiple sovereigns.