What is jurisdiction?

For starters, the term “jurisdiction” in the United States can refer to either subject-matter jurisdiction or personal jurisdiction.  Subject matter jurisdiction means the type of case a court can decide.  Personal jurisdiction refers to a court’s power over a person – – here ‘person’ means a natural person (human being), or a  legal person (a business).

Long arm jurisdiction is one type of personal jurisdiction.

Personal Jurisdiction

Personal jurisdiction concerns whether a court has power over a defendant.  Can the court force the defendant to come to court?  If the court doesn’t have personal jurisdiction over a person,  the court has no power to issue a judgment against that person.

Long Arm Jurisdiction and Long Arm Statutes

Long arm jurisdiction refers to the power of a court in one state to assert personal jurisdiction over a person in another state.

One issue in a civil litigation is whether a court located in one state has power over a defendant who resides in another state.

Every state has a law called a long-arm statute which details under what circumstances a court in that state may assert jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant.


Let’s say a plaintiff from New York wants to sue a defendant who is a resident of New Jersey.  If the plaintiff sues in a court located in New York, the plaintiff will have to ask the court to assert long arm jurisdiction over the New Jersey defendant.

But can the New York court assert long arm jurisdiction over this out-of-state defendant?  To answer this question, the parties and the court will need to refer to New York’s long arm statute, CPLR 302   

CPLR 302, New York’s long arm statute, defines when a New York court will assert personal jurisdiction over out of state defendants.

Limits on Long Arm Statutes

States cannot grant themselves unlimited power over out of state defendants.  According to the Supreme Court, the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment establishes the outer limit of the reach of long arm statutes.  For a state to assert long arm personal jurisdiction, the defendant must have sufficient minimum contacts with the forum state such that personal jurisdiction would be fair to the out of state defendant.

For example, if a defendant from New Jersey comes to New York and commits a tort within the state, New York’s long arm statute would allow a plaintiff to sue the defendant in a New York court.  Under these circumstances, we would probably agree that this is fair result.  If a defendant travels to another state and commits a tort within that state, he should expect that he could be sued there.  In this case, courts would say that New York constitutionally asserted long arm jurisdiction over the out of state defendant.


Below is a video (updated) on  long-arm jurisdiction:


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