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Don't think you can make a federal case of it.

A number of lawyers have mentioned to me over the years that federal court is an option where the defendant cannot be sued in Massachusetts. Frankly, this is a misperception of civil procedure law. The federal court can exercise no greater in personam jurisdiction than the state court. There are constitutional considerations, specifically the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment, which require the defendant to have minimum contacts with the foreign state such that it will not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. Intl Shoe Co. v. State of Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945). Nothing has changed that rule of sixty- five years standing. The contacts between the defendant and the forum state must be sufficient to make it reasonable in the context of the federal system to require a defendant to defend the suit. Thus, whether in the state or federal court, if the defendant lacks contacts with the forum state the case will be dismissed. I guarantee that it doesn’t matter whether you bring a suit in state or federal court in terms of the personal jurisdiction question.

In a subsequent blog, I will examine the question of what constitutes the sufficient minimum contacts such that suit can be brought against a defendant. The long-arm statue , and Massachusetts has one, as set out in M.G.L.c. 223 A §3. Personal Jurisdiction Based Upon Acts or Conduct Within Commonwealth, goes a long way [excuse the pun] toward answering that question.

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