In Calder v. Jones, a California plaintiff sued two Florida defendants for libel based on an article that they had written in Florida that was circulated in California, which caused her to suffer reputational harm. Applying what is now commonly referred to as the “effects test,” the Supreme Court held that “because California [was] the focal point both of the story and of the harm suffered,” “[j]urisdiction over [the defendants] [was] proper in California based on the ‘effects’ of their Florida conduct in California.” 465 U.S. 783, 789 (1984).
Thirty years later, the Supreme Court clarified the effects test in Walden v. Fiore, 571 U.S. 277 (2014). There, a police officer confiscated $97,000 from a Nevada couple at an airport in Georgia, suspecting that the money was drug related. After the money was returned to the couple a few months later, the couple sued the officer in Nevada, asserting violations of the Fourth Amendment. Distinguishing Calder, the Supreme Court rejected the argument that jurisdiction was proper because the plaintiffs suffered an injury while living in Nevada. The court explained that “an injury is jurisdictionally relevant only insofar as it shows that the defendant has formed a contact with the forum State,” and therefore “[t]he proper question is not where the plaintiff experienced a particular injury or effect but whether the defendant’s conduct connects him to the forum in a meaningful way.” Id. at 290. Because the officer’s only connection to Nevada was through the plaintiffs, the court held that a Nevada court may not constitutionally exercise jurisdiction over the officer.
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