Rethinking Conspiracy Jurisdiction in Light of Stream of Commerce and Effects-Based Jurisdictional Principles
For decades, some courts have been willing to exercise personal jurisdiction over nonresident defendants based solely on the forum contacts of their coconspirators. This practice, termed “conspiracy jurisdiction,” has proven controversial among courts and commentators alike. On one hand, the actions of one member of a conspiracy are ordinarily attributable to other members of the conspiracy, and jurisdiction-conferring acts should arguably be no exception. On the other hand, attributing forum contacts from one actor to another based solely on their joint membership in a civil conspiracy seems to stretch due process protections to the breaking point. This Note provides new reasons to question conspiracy jurisdiction and offers a new path forward for analyzing personal jurisdiction in multidefendant conspiracy cases. In particular, it shows that due process concerns cannot be alleviated by further restricting when it is appropriate to attribute the forum contacts of one conspirator to another. Even the most restrictive versions of conspiracy jurisdiction are problematic because they make constitutional limits on personal jurisdiction vary by jurisdiction based on substantive state law. Rather than attempting to determine when attribution of forum contacts among conspirators is appropriate and when it is not, courts should instead draw on the Supreme Court’s recent personal jurisdiction decisions in the stream of commerce and extraterritorial intentional tort contexts to rethink what constitutes a forum “contact” in multidefendant conspiracy cases. Specifically, courts should require that nonresident conspirators intentionally target a forum through their own actions to be subject to jurisdiction there.
J.D. Candidate, 2018, Vanderbilt Law School; B.S. & B.A., 2015, Carson-Newman University.