Scott Dodson on Jurisdiction in the Trump Era

Published on: Author: Rick Marcus

Scott Dodson is rightly regarded as “Mr. Jurisdiction” among American legal academics. He has written a spate of articles about many different jurisdictional issues that establish him as the leading authority of his generation on these subjects.

In Jurisdiction in the Trump Era, a contribution to a symposium with Fordham Law Review, he draws on this expertise to reflect on where we’ve been in terms of jurisdictional doctrine, and where we may be going. The background is that rather expansive attitudes toward personal jurisdiction during the mid-20th century facilitated forum choice for plaintiffs and limited defendants’ ability to escape from jurisdictions favored by plaintiffs. There even came to be the idea of “magnet jurisdictions” for certain types of litigation.

Beginning in the 1980s, the Supreme Court reined in many of these expansive attitudes toward personal jurisdiction, sometimes conferring what some Justices called a “veto” on defendants even if the jurisdiction selected by plaintiffs appeared to be the most convenient and sensible one. Within the last five years or so, this pro-defendant shift has accelerated somewhat, particularly with two companion 2011 decisions against jurisdiction in suits brought by personal injury plaintiffs.

Meanwhile, Congress has relaxed barriers to federal-court subject matter jurisdiction that were originally embraced by the Supreme Court in the 1970s. The Supplemental Jurisdiction Act of 1990, and the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005 both opened the door to federal court for cases that under the Court’s precedents would have to be brought in state court. And corporate defendants have often employed these statutes to remove cases brought against them in state court into federal court. Plaintiffs have meanwhile tried very hard to keep the cases in state court.

Usually academics focus narrowly on very specific jurisdictional issues; the articles on supplemental jurisdiction alone would fill several shelves in a library. Drawing on his comprehensive knowledge of the area, Professor Dodson is able to put these developments into broader context. As he usually does, he offers a striking and intriguing perspective. The theme is to consider what are likely to be the trends of the emerging “Trump Era.” The reality seems to be that it may look a lot like the “Obama Era” in terms of jurisdictional issues. Whatever one’s view on whether the trends of the last 30 years go in the right direction, this article is “must” reading for any interested in jurisdictional issues.