personal jurisdiction

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Personal jurisdiction refers to a court’s authority to adjudicate the rights and liability of the defendant. Before a court can exercise power over a party, the U.S. Constitution requires that the party has certain minimum contacts with the forum in which the court sits. See: International Shoe v Washington, 326 US 310 (1945). 

Waiving Personal Jurisdiction

Personal jurisdiction can generally be waived (Unlike subject matter jurisdiction). Therefore, if the party being sued appears in a court without objecting to the court’s lack of personal jurisdiction over them, the court will assume that the defendant is waiving any objection to personal jurisdiction. See Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2)

Obtaining Personal Jurisdiction

Typically for a court to have personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the plaintiff needs to serve the defendant in the state in which the court sits, and the defendant needs to voluntarily appear in court. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 4(k) describes whether a state’s courts would have the authority to adjudicate a claim as it relates to personal jurisdiction.

See also: in personam

[Last updated in January of 2024 by the Wex Definitions Team]