Plaintiff Personal Jurisdiction and Venue Transfer

Scott Dodson*

Personal jurisdiction usually focuses on the rights of the defendant. This is because a plaintiff implicitly consents to personal jurisdiction in the court where the plaintiff chooses to file. But what if the defendant seeks to transfer venue to a court in a state in which the plaintiff has no contacts and never consented to personal jurisdiction? Lower courts operate on the assumption that in both ordinary venue-transfer cases under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a) and multidistrict-litigation cases under § 1407(a), personal-jurisdiction concerns for plaintiffs simply do not apply. I contest that assumption. Neither statute expands the statutory authorization of federal-court personal jurisdiction. And theories based on implied consent stretch that notion too far. Personal jurisdiction legitimately can treat plaintiffs and defendants differently, but those differences call for nuance and fact dependency, not a blanket exemption for plaintiffs from personal-jurisdiction protections. This Essay reestablishes plaintiff-side personal jurisdiction by articulating and justifying the standard for protecting the due process rights of plaintiffs subject to interstate venue transfer without their express consent.

*Geoffrey C. Hazard Jr. Distinguished Professor of Law and Associate Dean for Research, University of California Hastings College of the Law. I am grateful to those who com- mented on early drafts, especially Andrew Bradt and participants at the Southeastern Associa- tion of Law Schools Annual Conference Civil Procedure Roundtable. NB: I use the singular epicene pronoun “they” and its derivatives throughout.

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