20 F.3d 644 (5th Cir. 1994), 93-1907, Wilson v. Belin

Docket Nº:93-1907
Citation:20 F.3d 644
Party Name:Thomas W. WILSON, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. David W. BELIN and G. Robert Blakey, Defendants-Appellees.
Case Date:May 13, 1994
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit

Page 644

20 F.3d 644 (5th Cir. 1994)

Thomas W. WILSON, Plaintiff-Appellant,


David W. BELIN and G. Robert Blakey, Defendants-Appellees.

No. 93-1907

United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit

May 13, 1994

Rehearing Denied June 9, 1994.

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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D. Bradley Kizzia, Strasburger & Price, Dallas, TX, for plaintiff-appellant.

Thomas C. McGraw, Alan R. Richey, and Robert D. Sack, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, Dallas, TX, for Belin.

Kirte M. Kinser, McGuire, Craddock, Strother & Lutes, Dallas, TX, for Blakley.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.

Before JOLLY, WIENER, and EMILIO M. GARZA, Circuit Judges.

E. GRADY JOLLY, Circuit Judge:

The question presented in this case is whether a federal district court sitting in Texas has personal jurisdiction over two out-of-state defendants. In fact, none of the parties are Texas residents. The plaintiff, a Pennsylvania resident, filed this defamation suit in Texas state court against an Indiana resident and an Iowa resident. The genesis of this lawsuit is in a speech the plaintiff made in Dallas concerning the Kennedy assassination. A Dallas reporter telephoned the defendants in Indiana and Iowa, respectively, for a response to the speech. The reporter then purportedly quoted the defendants' reactions in a newspaper article. The plaintiff claims that the defendants' negative remarks libeled him in Texas. After removal, the federal district court dismissed the case for lack of personal jurisdiction. We affirm.


The plaintiff, Thomas W. Wilson, is a Pennsylvania resident, who used photographic image processing technology in his job as an engineer for U.S. Steel Corporation. Wilson began applying certain imaging technology--on his own time--to photographs of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Wilson claimed that his computer enhancements revealed a second gunman on the "grassy knoll" and revealed that a photograph of Lee Harvey Oswald with a rifle had been tampered with. On November 15, 1991, Wilson spoke at a symposium in Dallas, Texas, on the Kennedy assassination and presented his "revelations."

During the symposium, Mark Potok, a reporter for the Dallas Times Herald, telephoned Robert Blakey, who served as chief counsel and staff director of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, to discuss Wilson's conclusions. The reporter also called David Belin, who served as assistant counsel to the Warren Commission to discuss Wilson's comments. Both Blakey and Belin received the calls in their respective states of residence--Indiana and Iowa.

On November 16, 1991, the Dallas Times Herald published an article written by Mr. Potok that quoted Mr. Blakey as saying, "You know the saying among computer people, 'Garbage in, garbage out?' This is garbage." The article quoted Mr. Belin as saying, "It's a series of massive lies. The man is basically making an outrageous claim."


On September 3, 1992, Wilson filed a bill of discovery in Texas state court to depose Potok to determine if he misquoted Blakey and Belin before instituting suit against them. On November 13, Wilson filed a defamation suit against Blakey and Belin in Texas state court. The suit and the original petition were received by the Texas Secretary of State, as agents for the nonresidents, on November 23. On December 22, Blakey and Belin filed a joint notice of removal citing diversity of citizenship.

On September 2, 1993, the district court granted Blakey and Wilson's motion to dismiss the case on the grounds that the court lacked specific and general personal jurisdiction over them. Wilson filed this appeal.


In a diversity suit, a federal court has personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant to the same extent that a state court in that forum has such jurisdiction. Bullion v. Gillespie, 895 F.2d 213, 215 (5th Cir.1990); Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(e). The reach of this jurisdiction is delimited by: (1) the state's long-arm statute; and (2) the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment

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to the federal Constitution. Bullion, 895 F.2d at 215. Because the Texas long-arm statute extends to the limits of federal due process, 1 our two-step inquiry is reduced to an analysis of whether requiring Blakey and Belin to defend a defamation suit in Texas would impinge on their individual liberty interests--not to be subjected to suits in a distant forum with which they have little connection--that are protected by the Due Process Clause. 2 See Insurance Corp. of Ireland v. Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinee, 456 U.S. 694, 702 n. 10, 102 S.Ct. 2099, 2104 n. 10, 72 L.Ed.2d 492 (1982) (stating that the restriction on state power to subject a nonresident to suit is "ultimately a function of the individual liberty interest preserved by the Due Process Clause").

The exercise of personal jurisdiction over a nonresident will not violate due process principles if two requirements are met. First, the nonresident defendant must have purposefully availed himself of the benefits and protections of the forum state by establishing "minimum contacts" with that forum state. International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 158, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945); Bullion, 895 F.2d at 216. And second, the exercise of jurisdiction over the nonresident defendant must not offend "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice." Asahi Metal Indus. Co. v. Superior Court, 480 U.S. 102, 113, 107 S.Ct. 1026, 1033, 94 L.Ed.2d 92 (1987) (citing International Shoe, 326 U.S. at 316, 66 S.Ct. at 158).

The "minimum contacts" prong of the inquiry may be further subdivided into contacts that give rise to "specific" personal jurisdiction and those that give rise to "general" personal jurisdiction. Specific jurisdiction is appropriate when the nonresident defendant's contacts with the forum state arise from, or are directly related to, the cause of action. Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 414 n. 8, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 1872 n. 8, 80 L.Ed.2d 404 (1984); Bullion, 895 F.2d at 216. General jurisdiction, however, will attach, even if the nonresident defendant's contacts with the forum state are not directly related to the cause of action, if the defendant's contacts with the forum state are both "continuous and systematic." Helicopteros, 466 U.S. at 414 n. 9, 104 S.Ct. at 1872 n. 9; Bullion, 895 F.2d at 216.

If a nonresident defendant has sufficient related or unrelated minimum contacts with the forum, we must then consider whether the "fairness" prong of the jurisdictional inquiry is satisfied. See Asahi, 480 U.S. at 105, 107 S.Ct. at 1033; Bullion, 895 F.2d at 216. The Supreme Court...

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