Long-arm jurisdiction is the ability of local courts to exercise jurisdiction over foreign ("foreign" meaning out of jurisdiction, whether a state, province, or nation) defendants, whether on a statutory basis or through a court's inherent jurisdiction (depending on the jurisdiction). This jurisdiction permits a court to hear a case against a defendant and enter a binding judgment against a defendant residing outside the jurisdiction concerned.
At heart, the constraints on long arm jurisdiction are concepts of international law, and the principle that one country ought not exercise state power over the territory of another unless some recognized exception applies. In municipal law, the authority of a court to exercise long-arm jurisdiction must be based upon some action of the defendant which subjects him or her to the jurisdiction of the court.
The United States Supreme Court, in International Shoe v. Washington and later on in World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, has held that a person must have minimum contacts with a State, in order for a court in one state to assert personal jurisdiction over a defendant from another state. As the Court noted in the latter case,
As has long been settled, and as we reaffirm today, a state court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant only so long as there exist "minimum contacts" between the defendant and the forum State.... The concept of minimum contacts, in turn, can be seen to perform two related, but distinguishable, functions. It protects the defendant against the burdens of litigating in a distant or inconvenient forum. And it acts to ensure that the States, through their courts, do not reach out beyond the limits imposed on them by their status as coequal sovereigns in a federal system.
In 1987, the Supreme Court, in its ruling in Asahi Metal Industry Co. v. Superior Court, laid down a five-factor test to determine whether "traditional notions of fair play" would permit the assertion of personal jurisdiction, under the reasonableness requirement, over an out-of-state defendant:
There was discussion as to the Court's wisdom in not employing Asahi as a way to articulate "a similarly limited position [as in World-Wide Volkswagen] for the United States within the international community."
The issue of general (as opposed to specific) jurisdiction of US courts was addressed in Helicopteros Nacionales de Colombia, S. A. v. Hall,Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S. A. v. Brown and Daimler AG v. Bauman, where the last held that, outside of "an exceptional case," general jurisdiction will generally be limited to the places where a corporation is incorporated and its principal place of business. In Daimler, Justice Ginsburg noted that specific jurisdiction is supposed to be the norm while "general jurisdiction has come to occupy a less dominant place in the contemporary scene." The risks that a more expansive view of general jurisdiction would pose to international comity were recently dealt with in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. and Mohamad v. Palestinian Authority.
The circumstances by which a foreign government may sue or be sued in federal and state courts are narrowed by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the Eleventh Amendment to the United States Constitution.
In the United States, some states' long-arm statutes refer to specific acts, for example torts or contract cases, which a court may entertain. Other states grant jurisdiction more broadly. California's Code of Civil Procedure, for example, states:
410.10. A court of this state may exercise jurisdiction on any basis not inconsistent with the Constitution of this state or of the United States.
- § 302. Personal jurisdiction by acts of non-domiciliaries
- (a) ...As to a cause of action arising from any of the acts enumerated in this section, a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over any non-domiciliary, or his executor or administrator, who in person or through an agent:
- 1. transacts any business within the state or contracts anywhere to supply goods or services in the state...
The extent of jurisdiction granted under this authority has expanded in recent jurisprudence of the New York Court of Appeals:
- (k) Territorial Limits of Effective Service.
(1) In General. Serving a summons or filing a waiver of service establishes personal jurisdiction over a defendant:
(A) who is subject to the jurisdiction of a court of general jurisdiction in the state where the district court is located;
(C) when authorized by a federal statute.
(2) Federal Claim Outside State-Court Jurisdiction. For a claim that arises under federal law, serving a summons or filing a waiver of service establishes personal jurisdiction over a defendant if:
(A) the defendant is not subject to jurisdiction in any state's courts of general jurisdiction; and
(B) exercising jurisdiction is consistent with the United States Constitution and laws.
The jurisdiction of Canadian courts has been standardized to a great degree through jurisprudence developed by the Supreme Court of Canada, most notably in the 2012 ruling in Club Resorts Ltd. v. Van Breda. It ruled that jurisdiction must be established primarily on the basis of objective factors that connect the legal situation or the subject matter of the litigation with the forum. In a case concerning a tort, the following factors are presumptive connecting factors that, prima facie, entitle a court to assume jurisdiction over a dispute:
It was also held that a Canadian court cannot decline to exercise its jurisdiction unless the defendant invokes forum non conveniens. The decision to raise this doctrine rests with the parties, not with the court seized of the claim. If a defendant raises an issue of forum non conveniens, the burden is on him or her to show why the court should decline to exercise its jurisdiction and displace the forum chosen by the plaintiff.