Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Battle of the Bulge: DNJ Applies Rule 4(k)(1)(B)'s "Bulge Rule" to Avoid Ping Pong Litigation

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(1)(B) Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(k)(1)(B), the so-called "bulge rule,"

Serving a summons or filing a waiver of service establishes personal jurisdiction over a defendant...

who is a party joined under Rule 14 or 19  and is served within a judicial district of the United States and not more than 100 miles from where the summons was issued....

After looking for a while for a good case to explain this "bulge rule" to students, I finally came across Tatar v. Levi, 2010 WL 3740610 (D.N.J. 2010), in which the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey applied Rule 4(k)(1)(B) in part because it found that "this case is not a ping pong ball to be batted back and forth between the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the District of New Jersey."

In Levi, Serdar Tatar, a pretrial detaineee confined at the Philadelphia Detention Center (FDC Philadelphia) on criminal charges in the District of New Jersey, brought an action against the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.  Judge Jan E. DuBois thereafter transferred the action to the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. Tatar then

filed an Amended Complaint against the BOP and eight BOP officials at FDC Philadelphia...Serdar Tatar's allegations in the Amended Complaint may be summarized as follows: (a) defendants were aware that co-defendant Dritan Duka had threatened Serdar Tatar with physical harm on February 11, 2008; (b) defendants thereafter failed to take reasonable action to protect Serdar Tatar from Duka; (c) on March 10, 2008, Dritan Duka physically attacked and injured Serdar Tatar; (d) defendants deliberately failed to provide Serdar Tatar with nutritionally adequate meals since May 7, 2007, in order to purposefully weaken him; (e) corrections officer Hadalgo strip searched Serdar Tatar on October 10, 2008, and December 20, 2008, in a manner that humiliated Tatar and offended his religious beliefs; (f) Hadalgo tried to prevent Serdar Tatar from submitting an administrative remedy regarding the strip searches; and (g) Serdar Tatar exhausted administrative remedies before the BOP.

A United States Marshal subsequently served the amended complaint on the eight BOP officials at FDC Philadelphia, which is 3.1 miles from the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. Several of these officials thereafter moved, inter alia, to dismiss or transfer the amended complaint based upon lack of personal jurisdiction because "from the time Plaintiff was incarcerated at FDC Philadelphia until the present time, they have resided in Philadelphia and worked at FDC Philadelphia, and they do not own real property or otherwise have a business interest in the State of New Jersey."

The court disagreed, finding that

In this case, these defendants are federal employees who work at FDC Philadelphia, a federal facility designated to house pretrial detainees for the District of New Jersey....FDC Philadelphia, located at 700 Arch Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, is 3.1 miles away from this Court. It is foreseeable that District of New Jersey detainees might bring civil rights cases regarding conditions of confinement at FDC Philadelphia in the District of New Jersey, the court that ordered their pretrial detention. Moreover, it is foreseeable that the BOP, a national agency, might transfer defendants from FDC Philadelphia to one of the BOP facilities in New Jersey....Under these circumstances, this Court finds that defendants have minimum contacts with the State of New Jersey and the 100-mile bulge area surrounding the Camden vicinage, such that "the maintenance of the suit does not offend 'traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.'"....
In addition, this Court has personal jurisdiction over defendants...pursuant to Rule 4(k)(1)(A) and (k)(1)(B). This Court has personal jurisdiction over these defendants under Rule 4(k)(1)(A) because they have minimum contacts with the State of New Jersey, as set forth above. This Court has personal jurisdiction over these defendants under Rule 4(k)(1)(B), since they were served within 100 miles of Camden, New Jersey, they have minimum contacts within that 100-mile bulge area, and they are necessary parties under Rule 19. Because this Court has personal jurisdiction over defendants, consistent with due process of law and Rule 4(k)(1), this Court will deny defendants' motion to dismiss or transfer the action back to the Eastern District of Pennsylvania for lack of personal jurisdiction.

Or, as the court put it in the introduction to its opinion, it denied the motion to dismiss or transfer because because "this case is not a ping pong ball to be batted back and forth between the Eastern District of Pennsylvania and the District of New Jersey..."

 -Colin Miller

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/civpro/2011/04/underfederal-rule-of-civil-procedure-4k1bfederal-rule-of-civil-procedure-4k1b-the-so-called-bulge-rule-servi.html

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