Walden v. Fiore

Citation571 U.S. 277,188 L.Ed.2d 12,134 S.Ct. 1115
Decision Date25 February 2014
Docket NumberNo. 12–574.,12–574.
CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Parties Anthony WALDEN, Petitioner v. Gina FIORE et al.

Jeffrey S. Bucholtz, Washington, DC, for Petitioner.

Melissa Arbus Sherry, for the United States as amicus curiae, by special leave of the Court, supporting the petitioner.

Thomas C. Goldstein, for the respondents.

Timothy H. Lee, King & Spalding LLP, Atlanta, GA, Jeffrey S. Bucholtz, Counsel of Record, Daniel S. Epps, Carolyn M. Sweeney, King & Spalding LLP, Washington, DC, for Petitioner.

Thomas C. Goldstein, Counsel of Record, Kevin K. Russell, Goldstein & Russell, P.C., Washington, DC, Robert A. Nersesian, Thea Sankiewicz, Nersesian & Sankiewicz, Las Vegas, NV, for Respondents.

Justice THOMAS delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case asks us to decide whether a court in Nevada may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant on the basis that he knew his allegedly tortious conduct in Georgia would delay the return of funds to plaintiffs with connections to Nevada. Because the defendant had no other contacts with Nevada, and because a plaintiff's contacts with the forum State cannot be "decisive in determining whether the defendant's due process rights are violated," Rush v. Savchuk, 444 U.S. 320, 332, 100 S.Ct. 571, 62 L.Ed.2d 516 (1980), we hold that the court in Nevada may not exercise personal jurisdiction under these circumstances.

I

Petitioner Anthony Walden serves as a police officer for the city of Covington, Georgia. In August 2006, petitioner was working at the Atlanta Hartsfield–Jackson Airport as a deputized agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). As part of a task force, petitioner conducted investigative stops and other law enforcement functions in support of the DEA's airport drug interdiction program.

On August 8, 2006, Transportation Security Administration agents searched respondents Gina Fiore and Keith Gipson and their carry-on bags at the San Juan airport in Puerto Rico. They found almost $97,000 in cash. Fiore explained to DEA agents in San Juan that she and Gipson had been gambling at a casino known as the El San Juan, and that they had residences in both California and Nevada (though they provided only California identification). After respondents were cleared for departure, a law enforcement official at the San Juan airport notified petitioner's task force in Atlanta that respondents had boarded a plane for Atlanta, where they planned to catch a connecting flight to Las Vegas, Nevada.

When respondents arrived in Atlanta, petitioner and another DEA agent approached them at the departure gate for their flight to Las Vegas. In response to petitioner's questioning, Fiore explained that she and Gipson were professional gamblers. Respondents maintained that the cash they were carrying was their gambling " 'bank' " and winnings. App. 15, 24. After using a drug-sniffing dog to perform a sniff test, petitioner seized the cash.1 Petitioner advised respondents that their funds would be returned if they later proved a legitimate source for the cash. Respondents then boarded their plane.

After respondents departed, petitioner moved the cash to a secure location and the matter was forwarded to DEA headquarters. The next day, petitioner received a phone call from respondents' attorney in Nevada seeking return of the funds. On two occasions over the next month, petitioner also received documentation from the attorney regarding the legitimacy of the funds.

At some point after petitioner seized the cash, he helped draft an affidavit to show probable cause for forfeiture of the funds and forwarded that affidavit to a United States Attorney's Office in Georgia.2 According to respondents, the affidavit was false and misleading because petitioner misrepresented the encounter at the airport and omitted exculpatory information regarding the lack of drug evidence and the legitimate source of the funds. In the end, no forfeiture complaint was filed, and the DEA returned the funds to respondents in March 2007.

Respondents filed suit against petitioner in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada, seeking money damages under Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S.Ct. 1999, 29 L.Ed.2d 619 (1971). Respondents alleged that petitioner violated their Fourth Amendment rights by (1) seizing the cash without probable cause; (2) keeping the money after concluding it did not come from drug-related activity; (3) drafting and forwarding a probable cause affidavit to support a forfeiture action while knowing the affidavit contained false statements; (4) willfully seeking forfeiture while withholding exculpatory information; and (5) withholding that exculpatory information from the United States Attorney's Office.

The District Court granted petitioner's motion to dismiss. Relying on this Court's decision in Calder v. Jones, 465 U.S. 783, 104 S.Ct. 1482, 79 L.Ed.2d 804 (1984), the court determined that petitioner's search of respondents and his seizure of the cash in Georgia did not establish a basis to exercise personal jurisdiction in Nevada. The court concluded that even if petitioner caused harm to respondents in Nevada while knowing they lived in Nevada, that fact alone did not confer jurisdiction. Because the court dismissed the complaint for lack of personal jurisdiction, it did not determine whether venue was proper.

On appeal, a divided panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed. The Court of Appeals assumed the District Court had correctly determined that petitioner's search and seizure in Georgia could not support exercise of jurisdiction in Nevada. The court held, however, that the District Court could properly exercise jurisdiction over "the false probable cause affidavit aspect of the case." 688 F.3d 558, 577 (2011). According to the Court of Appeals, petitioner "expressly aimed" his submission of the allegedly false affidavit at Nevada by submitting the affidavit with knowledge that it would affect persons with a "significant connection" to Nevada.3 Id., at 581. After determining that the delay in returning the funds to respondents caused them "foreseeable harm" in Nevada and that the exercise of personal jurisdiction over petitioner was otherwise reasonable, the court found the District Court's exercise of personal jurisdiction to be proper.4 Id., at 582, 585. The Ninth Circuit denied rehearing en banc, with eight judges, in two separate opinions, dissenting. Id., at 562, 568.

We granted certiorari to decide whether due process permits a Nevada court to exercise jurisdiction over petitioner. 568 U.S. ––––, 133 S.Ct. 1493, 185 L.Ed.2d 547 (2013). We hold that it does not and therefore reverse.5

II
A

"Federal courts ordinarily follow state law in determining the bounds of their jurisdiction over persons." Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. ––––, ––––, 134 S.Ct. 746, 753, 187 L.Ed.2d 624 (2014). This is because a federal district court's authority to assert personal jurisdiction in most cases is linked to service of process on a defendant "who is subject to the jurisdiction of a court of general jurisdiction in the state where the district court is located." Fed. Rule of Civ. Proc. 4(k)(1)(A). Here, Nevada has authorized its courts to exercise jurisdiction over persons "on any basis not inconsistent with ... the Constitution of the United States." Nev.Rev.Stat. § 14.065 (2011). Thus, in order to determine whether the Federal District Court in this case was authorized to exercise jurisdiction over petitioner, we ask whether the exercise of jurisdiction "comports with the limits imposed by federal due process" on the State of Nevada. Daimler, supra, at ––––, 134 S.Ct., at 753.

B

The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment constrains a State's authority to bind a nonresident defendant to a judgment of its courts. World–Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U.S. 286, 291, 100 S.Ct. 559, 62 L.Ed.2d 490 (1980). Although a nonresident's physical presence within the territorial jurisdiction of the court is not required, the nonresident generally must have "certain minimum contacts ... such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.' " International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S.Ct. 154, 90 L.Ed. 95 (1945) (quoting Milliken v. Meyer, 311 U.S. 457, 463, 61 S.Ct. 339, 85 L.Ed. 278 (1940) ).

This case addresses the "minimum contacts" necessary to create specific jurisdiction.6 The inquiry whether a forum State may assert specific jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant " focuses on 'the relationship among the defendant, the forum, and the litigation.' " Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 465 U.S. 770, 775, 104 S.Ct. 1473, 79 L.Ed.2d 790 (1984) (quoting Shaffer v. Heitner, 433 U.S. 186, 204, 97 S.Ct. 2569, 53 L.Ed.2d 683 (1977) ). For a State to exercise jurisdiction consistent with due process, the defendant's suit-related conduct must create a substantial connection with the forum State. Two related aspects of this necessary relationship are relevant in this case.

First, the relationship must arise out of contacts that the "defendant himself " creates with the forum State. Burger King Corp. v. Rudzewicz, 471 U.S. 462, 475, 105 S.Ct. 2174, 85 L.Ed.2d 528 (1985). Due process limits on the State's adjudicative authority principally protect the liberty of the nonresident defendant—not the convenience of plaintiffs or third parties. See World–Wide Volkswagen Corp., supra, at 291–292, 100 S.Ct. 559. We have consistently rejected attempts to satisfy the defendant-focused "minimum contacts" inquiry by demonstrating contacts between the plaintiff (or third parties) and the forum State. See Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S.A. v. Hall, 466 U.S. 408, 417, 104 S.Ct. 1868, 80 L.Ed.2d 404 (1984) ("[The] unilateral activity of another party or a third person is not an appropriate consideration when...

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