Washington Law Review


As part of the attempt to understand modem doctrine, this article first reexamines Pennoyer v. Neff. This reexamination goes beyond the Supreme Court opinion and looks both at the underlying story of the case and the lower court opinion. The story of Pennoyer v. Neff is of considerable interest in and of itself. The cast of characters includes a bigamous United States Senator who was elected under an alias, a governor of Oregon who used his inauguration as a platform to decry his loss in the case, and an illiterate but litigious settler. In addition, the lower court opinion, all but ignored in most discussions of the case, merits closer attention than it has received. The contrast between the lower court's narrow approach to the issues, and the Supreme Court's far more expansive opinion, highlights the extraordinary nature of Justice Field's opinion. Field, the "prophet" of substantive due process, seized on Pennoyer as a vehicle to entrench the due process clause of the fourteenth amendment as a barrier to state action inconsistent with natural law rights, and went far beyond the facts and issues before him to do so. Field's approach to personal jurisdiction continues to dominate modern personal jurisdiction doctrine. His opinion in Pennoyer not only laid the foundation for treating personal jurisdiction as a substantive liberty interest, but also established that geographic boundaries are central in the protection of that interest. The final section of the article is devoted to an examination of these surviving elements of Pennoyer.

First Page


Included in

Jurisdiction Commons