Two Multiple Choice Questions from the 2008 Exam
A Multiple Choice Question about Rule 11

An Essay Question from the 2010 Exam

With updated answers:

Essay Question 6. [24 points]


D has lived in New York City all her life. In the fall of 2008, at the age of 21, she moved to Massachusetts to go to law school. At the beginning of her second year of law school, in the fall of 2009, she interviewed only with firms located in New York, although she did not get any offers. In the fall of 2009, soon after her interviews, she was driving a rental car while on vacation in California when she ran into a car driven by P, a domiciliary of Massachusetts. A month after the accident, P sued D under California negligence law in the Federal District Court for the District of Massachusetts, for $100,000 in damages for his injuries in the accident. D was served while she was visiting her parents in New York City. D makes a preanswer motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, subject matter jurisdiction, and improper venue. Will her motion succeed and why or why not?


The following (in italics) would be an ideal answer to this relatively easy question:


Let us begin with subject matter jurisdiction. Here D’s motion should probably fail. The amount in controversy is likely met, since P is asking for $100,000 (and we have no reason to believe the St. Paul Mercury standard is not satisfied). The real question is whether D is diverse from P, who is a citizen of Massachusetts. D has a New York domicile until she establishes a new one. A new domicile is established through presence in a state conjoined with the intention of remaining there for the indefinite future and making it one's home. We do not have sufficient evidence that D intends to remain in Massachusetts after graduation from law school to conclude that she has established a Massachusetts domicile. Indeed, the fact that she interviewed only with New York firms is evidence that she does not intend to remain in Massachusetts. The fact that she did not get a job in New York does not really matter. The question is not whether she intends to return to New York – the question is only whether she intends to remain in Massachusetts and make it her home. If she does not (for example because she’ll go wherever she can get a job), then she arguably retains the New York domicile and there is diversity. [Here you should have taken a stand on the issue.]

Now for personal jurisdiction. Under FRCP 4(k)(1)(A), the federal court in Massachusetts will have PJ only if a state court in Massachusetts would. We do not know about Massachusetts law on PJ, so all we can consider is the 14th Amendment. There is no specific PJ, because no contact between D and Mass is related to the cause of action (which arose in CA). So we must rely on general PJ. Tagging will not work because D was tagged in NY. A traditional source of general PJ over individuals is domicile, but, as we have seen, D is probably domiciled in NY. Does that mean that there is no PJ over D is Mass? This would be odd given that D resides in Mass at least 9 months out of the year and will continue to do so for at least one more year. Shouldn’t residence of this sort be sufficient for general PJ? After all, this would seem to be the sort of substantial continuous contacts necessary for general PJ under Int’l Shoe. The question of whether residence could establish general PJ was not discussed in class. [Here you should take a stand on this issue.]

Finally venue. No substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred in the District of Mass, so transactional venue is not available. Could one argue that venue is appropriate because D resides in the District of Mass, thus satisfying 1391(b)(1)? No, because under 1391(c)(1) (as changed by the Clarification Act) residence in 1391 means domicile (for individuals). Thus there would be no venue in the district.

Problems:

SMJ. Many of you treated the question of New York domicile to depend upon whether D intended to return to NY. The real question was whether D intended to remain in Mass and make it her home, since, in the absence of such an intent, D would retain her NY domicile even if she did not intend to return to NY.

PJ. Some simply said that because the domicile was NY there was no general PJ, ignoring the question of whether there should be general PJ under a novel theory based on residence.

Venue. The biggest mistake here was to rely upon the fallback provision in 1391(b)(3) once you concluded that there was no venue under 1391(b)(1) or (b)(2). The fallback provision is applicable only if there is no other district that has venue. But there clearly is – for example, the district in Cal. where the car accident arose.

 

Comments

Ben Abel

In re PJ - We've typically discussed "substantial and continuous" contacts with the forum state with regards to corporations. Still, could you use the Goodyear test to argue D is sufficiently "at home" in MA, or would it be improper to use a corp. test for an individual?

Michael Green

In a situation like this, where there is really nothing more specific to go on in determining whether there is general PJ over the defendant, I think it is entirely appropriate to draw on the standard for general PJ for corporations, as spelled out in Goodyear.

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