May 7, 2012
Examining the Three Opinions in J. McIntyre Machinery v. Nicastro
Now on SSRN is my article, The Lay of the Land: Examining the Three Opinions in J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro, which was part of a recent symposium on the Supreme Court’s two personal jurisdiction decisions from last Term. Here’s the abstract:
It was a long time coming. The Supreme Court's decisions last Term in J. McIntyre Machinery, Ltd. v. Nicastro and Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S.A. v. Brown ended a two-decade high-court hiatus from the subject of personal jurisdiction. In McIntyre, the more controversial of the two, the Court concludes that New Jersey state courts lacked jurisdiction over a British manufacturer in a suit by a New Jersey plaintiff who was injured in New Jersey by a machine purchased by his New Jersey employer. McIntyre lacks a majority opinion, however. Instead we have a four-Justice plurality authored by Justice Kennedy, a three-Justice dissent authored by Justice Ginsburg, and a scale-tipping concurrence written by Justice Breyer and joined by Justice Alito.
This article for the South Carolina Law Review's symposium on McIntyre and Goodyear examines the three McIntyre opinions. It argues that McIntyre should not be read to impose significant new restraints on jurisdiction. Although there are aspects of Justice Kennedy's plurality that suggest a more restrictive approach, Justice Breyer's concurrence explicitly rejects Justice Kennedy's reasoning. Justice Breyer does agree that jurisdiction was not proper in McIntyre, but that conclusion is premised on a very narrow understanding of the factual record. Correctly understood, Justice Breyer's approach would allow jurisdiction in a similar case -- even one where only a single sale is ultimately made to an in-state purchaser -- provided the record is slightly more developed on the presence of potential customers in the forum state. In terms of the overarching legal principles, Justice Breyer's concurrence has more in common with Justice Ginsburg's dissent than Justice Kennedy's plurality.
Thanks again to the folks at South Carolina, who did an excellent job with the symposium. It was a pleasure to be a part of it.