Personal Jurisdiction

A term primarily used in US Civil Procedure law which refers to whether a court, and in the USA a particular federal district court, can exercise jurisdiction over the actual parties to the case, whether individuals or corporations.

Although scholars typically list three bases for personal jurisdiction, consent, power and notice – this list ignores the most obvious basis, presence.

  • Jurisdiction can be usually exercised over any individual or person who exists or is legally present (because that is where they are incorporated, or have their normal residence) within a court’s jurisdiction with respect to any claims that properly lie in that court – it can also arise in most instances under the terms of contract, in a jurisdiction or forum selection clause;
  • A party can consent to the jurisdiction of a court either explicitly, or implicitly (for example, a party filing suit in a particular court implicitly consents to the jurisdiction of that court for counterclaims and most crossclaims);
  • Power – the claim relates directly to the right of a court to manage affairs within its jurisdiction, thus for example questions about property rights within the jurisdiction (e.g., in rem jurisdiction);
  • Notice – which relates to various ways in which a party could be made aware that they are subject to the court’s jurisdiction and that jurisdiction is reasonable.

Personal jurisdiction in US law is subject to various tests of reasonableness, which typically focus on a party’s deliberate contacts with the forum and in some circumstances the degree to which those contacts relate to the cause of action.

In international practice, similar issues are considered with respect to jurisdiction in a particular country’s courts. However, there is a crucial practical aspect to personal jurisdiction – there is little point in bringing a civil claim against a party if the court hearing the case lacks the practical capacity to do anything to the defendant, i.e., jail for contempt, seizure of assets or bank accounts, etc. or that judgment cannot readily be enforced in the jurisdiction where the defendant has assets.

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