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Jurisdiction by fiction

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  • Legalbear
    Discussed below are the differences between personal and subject matter jurisdiction; also some on Aritlce III: [28] In McDonald v. Mabee, 243 U.S. 90
    Message 1 of 1 , May 23, 2006

      Discussed below are the differences between personal and subject matter jurisdiction; also some on Aritlce III:


      [28]     In McDonald v. Mabee, 243 U.S. 90 (1917), another case involving an alleged lack of personal jurisdiction, Justice Holmes wrote for the Court, "great caution should be used not to let fiction deny the fair play that can be secured only by a pretty close adhesion to fact." Id., at 91. Petitioners' basic submission is that to apply Rule 37(b)(2) to jurisdictional facts is to allow fiction to get the better of fact and that it is impermissible to use a fiction to establish judicial power, where, as a matter of fact, it does not exist. In our view, this represents a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of personal jurisdiction.



      [29]     The validity of an order of a federal court depends upon that court's having jurisdiction over both the subject matter and the parties. Stoll v. Gottlieb, 305 U.S. 165, 171-172 (1938); Thompson v. Whitman, 18 Wall. 457, 465 (1874). The concepts of subject-matter and personal jurisdiction, however, serve different purposes, and these different purposes affect the legal character of the two requirements. Petitioners fail to recognize the distinction between the two concepts -- speaking instead in general terms of "jurisdiction" -- although their argument's strength comes from conceiving of jurisdiction only as subject-matter jurisdiction.



      [30]     Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. The character of the controversies over which federal judicial authority may extend are delineated in Art. III, § 2, cl. 1. Jurisdiction of the lower federal courts is further limited to those subjects encompassed within a statutory grant of jurisdiction. Again, this reflects the constitutional source of federal judicial power: Apart from this Court, that power only exists "in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish." Art. III, § 1.



      [31]     Subject-matter jurisdiction, then, is an Art. III as well as a statutory requirement; it functions as a restriction on federal power, and contributes to the characterization of the federal sovereign. Certain legal consequences directly follow from this. For example, no action of the parties can confer subject-matter jurisdiction upon a federal court. Thus, the consent of the parties is irrelevant, California v. LaRue, 409 U.S. 109 (1972), principles of estoppel do not apply, American Fire & Casualty Co. v. Finn, 341 U.S. 6, 17-18 (1951), and a party does not waive the requirement by failing to challenge jurisdiction early in the proceedings. Similarly, a court, including an appellate court, will raise lack of subject-matter jurisdiction on its own motion. "[The] rule, springing from the nature and limits of the judicial power of the United States is inflexible and without exception, which requires this court, of its own motion, to deny its jurisdiction, and, in the exercise of its appellate power, that of all other courts of the United States, in all cases where such jurisdiction does not affirmatively appear in the record." Mansfield, C. & L.M.R. Co. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382 (1884).*fn9



      [32]     None of this is true with respect to personal jurisdiction. The requirement that a court have personal jurisdiction flows not from Art. III, but from the Due Process Clause. The personal jurisdiction requirement recognizes and protects an individual liberty interest. It represents a restriction on judicial power not as a matter of sovereignty, but as a matter of individual liberty.*fn10 Thus, the test for personal jurisdiction  requires that "the maintenance of the suit . . . not offend 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'" International Shoe Co. v. Washington , 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945), quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463 (1940).



      [33]     Because the requirement of personal jurisdiction represents first of all an individual right, it can, like other such rights, be waived. In McDonald v. Mabee, supra, the Court indicated that regardless of the power of the State to serve process, an individual may submit to the jurisdiction of the court by appearance. A variety of legal arrangements have been taken to represent express or implied consent to the personal jurisdiction of the court. In National Equipment Rental, Ltd. v. Szukhent, 375 U.S. 311, 316 (1964), we stated that "parties to a contract may agree in advance to submit to the jurisdiction of a given court," and in Petrowski v. Hawkeye-Security Co., 350 U.S. 495 (1956), the Court upheld the personal jurisdiction of a District Court on the basis of a stipulation entered into by the defendant. In addition, lower federal courts have found such consent implicit in agreements to arbitrate. See Victory Transport Inc. v. Comisaria General de Abastecimientos y Transportes, 336 F.2d 354 (CA2 1964); 2 J. Moore & J. Lucas, Moore 's Federal Practice para. 4.02[3], n. 22 (1982) and cases listed there. Furthermore, the Court has upheld state procedures which find constructive consent to the personal jurisdiction of the state court in the voluntary use of certain state procedures. See Adam v. Saenger, 303 U.S. 59, 67-68 (1938) ("There is nothing in the Fourteenth Amendment to prevent a state from adopting a procedure by which a judgment in personam may be rendered in a cross-action against a plaintiff in its courts . . . . It is the price which the state may exact as the condition of opening its courts to the plaintiff"); Chicago Life Ins. Co. v. Cherry, 244 U.S. 25, 29-30 (1917) ("[What] acts of the defendant shall be deemed a submission to [a court's] power is a matter upon which States may differ"). Finally, unlike subject-matter jurisdiction, which even an appellate court may review sua sponte, under Rule 12(h), Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, "[a] defense of lack of jurisdiction over the person . . . is waived" if not timely raised in the answer or a responsive pleading.



      [34]     In sum, the requirement of personal jurisdiction may be intentionally waived, or for various reasons a defendant may be estopped from raising the issue. These characteristics portray it for what it is -- a legal right protecting the individual. The plaintiff's demonstration of certain historical facts may make clear to the court that it has personal jurisdiction over the defendant as a matter of law -- i. e., certain factual showings will have legal consequences -- but this is not the only way in which the personal jurisdiction of the court may arise. The actions of the defendant may amount to a legal submission to the jurisdiction of the court, whether voluntary or not.



      [35]     The expression of legal rights is often subject to certain procedural rules: The failure to follow those rules may well result in a curtailment of the rights. Thus, the failure to enter a timely objection to personal jurisdiction constitutes, under Rule 12(h)(1), a waiver of the objection. A sanction under Rule 37(b)(2)(A) consisting of a finding of personal jurisdiction has precisely the same effect. As a general proposition, the Rule 37 sanction applied to a finding of personal jurisdiction creates no more of a due process problem than the Rule 12 waiver. Although "a court cannot conclude all persons interested by its mere assertion of its own power," Chicago Life Ins. Co. v. Cherry, supra, at 29, not all rules that establish legal consequences to a party's own behavior are "mere assertions" of power.



      [36]     Rule 37(b)(2)(A) itself embodies the standard established in Hammond Packing Co. v. Arkansas, 212 U.S. 322 (1909), for the due process limits on such rules.*fn11 There the Court held that it did not violate due process for a state court to strike the answer and render a default judgment against a defendant who failed to comply with a pretrial discovery order. Such a rule was permissible as an expression of "the undoubted right of the lawmaking power to create a presumption of fact as to the bad faith and untruth of an answer begotten from the suppression or failure to produce the proof ordered . . . . [The] preservation of due process was secured by the presumption that the refusal to produce evidence material to the administration of due process was but an admission of the want of merit in the asserted defense." Id. , at 350-351.

           The situation in Hammond was specifically distinguished from that in Hovey v. Elliott, 167 U.S. 409 (1897), in which the Court held that it did violate due process for a court to take similar action as "punishment" for failure to obey an order to pay into the registry of the court a certain sum of money. Due process is violated only if the behavior of the defendant will not support the Hammond Packing presumption. A proper application of Rule 37(b)(2) will, as a matter of law, support such a presumption. See Societe Internationale v. Rogers, 357 U.S. 197, 209-213 (1958). If there is no abuse of discretion in the application of the Rule 37 sanction, as we find to be the case here (see Part III), then the sanction is nothing more than the invocation of a legal presumption, or what is the same thing, the finding of a constructive waiver. Insurance Corporation Ireland v. Compagnie Des Bauxites De Guinee, 1982.SCT.42242 <http://www.versuslaw.com>  456 U.S. 694 (1982).


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