Burnham v. Superior Court of California
495 U.S. 604, 110 S. Ct. 2105, 109 L. Ed. 2d 631 (1990)
Burnhams were getting divorced.Mrs. Burnham sued for divorce in California.While Mr. Burnham
was in California briefly he was served process.
made a special appearance in California to try to quash service of
process on the grounds that California
did not have personal jurisdiction over him due to insufficient contacts (so it was a violation of the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment).The Superior Court denied his motion. Mr. Burnham appealed.
argued that the International Shoe v. Washington (326 U.S. 310 (1945)) standard of "continuous and
systematic" contacts should be the standard.
California Appellate Court affirmed.Mr. Burnham appealed.
US Supreme Court was unable to form a majority opinion, but ruled that
California did indeed have personal jurisdiction over Burnham.
faction, led by Justice Scalia (4 votes) found that it is sufficient that
the defendant be physically present for California to have personal
said that courts basically have always had jurisdiction over physically
present defendants and ought to continue to have such jurisdiction.
also rejected the argument that Shaffer v. Heitner (433 U.S. 186 (1977)) says that all questions of personal
jurisdiction should be evaluated according to the International
Shoe standard.Scalia points to the language in
Shaffer and says it only applied to absent defendants.
other faction, led by Justice Brennan, agreed that California has
jurisdiction, but that courts must consider minimum contacts and
fair play factors, as opposed to just physical presence.
said that just because something has been the law for a long time
doesn't mean it's just or right.
interpreted the ruling in Shaffer to mean that all personal
jurisdiction rules must be evaluated according to minimum contacts and
fair play, even "ancient" rules.
fact that physical presence has been sufficient for personal
jurisdiction for so long, Brennan argued, means that someone who goes to
California has "clear notice" that they can be served process
is a classic fairness versus efficiency concern.Working out
complex rules to make each case fair would increase the overhead involved
in litigation and might only prevent a few abuses.In order to weigh these factors,
it would be useful to know just how frequently these abuses occur or would
occur under each set of rules.
divorce law, courts have come up with something called the marital
domicile, which means that you be held
for in personam jurisdiction,
in the State where you lived with your spouse.