Calder v. Jones

PETITIONER: Ian Calder, John South
RESPONDENT: Shirley Jones
LOCATION: National Enquirer, Inc.

DOCKET NO.: 82-1401
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: State appellate court

CITATION: 465 US 783 (1984)
ARGUED: Nov 08, 1983
DECIDED: Mar 20, 1984
GRANTED: Apr 18, 1983

John G. Kester - on behalf of the Appellant
Paul S. Ablon - on behalf of the Appellee

Facts of the case

Shirley Jones was a professional actress and California resident whose television career was also based in California. Marty Ingels, her husband, was also a professional entertainer. On October 9, 1979, the National Enquirer published an article about Jones. John South wrote the first draft of the article, and his byline appeared on it. Shortly before publication, South called Ingels to read him the article and elicit his comments on it. Ian Calder, the president and editor of the Enquirer, declined to print a retraction.

National Enquirer, Inc. was a corporation that published a national newspaper with a total circulation of over five million, 600,000 copies of which were sold in California. John South was a reporter for the Enquirer. He was a resident of Florida, but frequently travelled to California on business. Ian Calder was a Florida resident and he exerted close control over the functions of the Enquirer; he had traveled to California only twice and had no other relevant contacts with that state.

Jones filed an action in California state court against Calder and South, alleging that the article was untrue, libelous, and that it damaged their reputations and good names. The superior court ruled that although the injury occurred in California, it lacked personal jurisdiction over the claim because of the potential chilling effect from requiring editors and reporters to appear in remote jurisdictions. The California Court of Appeals reversed because the defendants intended to cause tortious injury to Jones and Ingels in California. A timely petition for appeal to the Supreme Court of California was denied, but the Supreme Court of the United States treated it as a petition for a writ of certiorari, granting review.


Did Calder and South have sufficient contacts with the state of California to give California state courts personal jurisdiction over Jones’ claim of libel?

Media for Calder v. Jones

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 08, 1983 in Calder v. Jones

Warren E. Burger:

We will hear arguments next in Calder and South versus Jones.

Mr. Kester, I think you may proceed whenever you are ready.

John G. Kester:

Thank you.

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court, this case is quite different from the one you just heard, although both involve personal jurisdiction.

In that case, the central issue, which apparently was the one, the only addressed by the courts below, was jurisdiction over a publishing company.

This case, however, concerns exclusively two individual corporate employees.

It is not an appeal by a publisher.

The corporate publisher here, the National Enquirer, Incorporated, is a Florida corporation.

It consented to the jurisdiction of the California courts.

It is the publisher's employees, who are two residents of Florida, who have brought this appeal to this Court.

The plaintiff below, who is the appellee here, is Shirley Jones, a television actress.

She and her husband complained that they were both libeled by an article in the National Enquirer that said that her husband's behavior was driving her to drink.

Later, her husband dropped his complaint.

Later still, Ms. Jones amended her complaint to say that she complains now only about two sentences in the article, two sentences that said that her drinking had occurred at her place of work and interfered with her work.

Harry A. Blackmun:

Mr. Kester, does the record show why the husband dismissed his--

John G. Kester:

That is not in the record, Mr. Justice Blackmun.

The plaintiffs sued the National Inquirer in a Los Angeles state court for $20 million, $10 million compensatory damages and another $10 million punitive damages.

She also sued in the same complaint John South, a National Enquirer employee whose by-line was on the story that the Enquirer published, and Ian Calder, who was the editor and the president of the National Enquirer, the Number Two man in its corporate organization.

As I said, the Enquirer consented to jurisdiction in California.

The case has not yet gone to trial.

Calder and South, who are the appellants here, were served by mailing copies of the complaint to them from Florida addressed to them... from California, however, addressed to them in Florida.

They entered special appearances in California to contest the jurisdiction of the California court.

The Superior Court of Los Angeles County cited this Court's decisions in International Shoe against Washington, Culco against Superior Court of California, and Worldwide Volkswagen against Woodson, along with the First Amendment, and held that it did not have jurisdiction personally over these two Florida individuals, and it commented that really all that they would add to the California suit would be an opportunity for the plaintiff to try to collect additional punitive damage from them personally.

Ms. Jones appealed that ruling.

The California Court of Appeals sustained her position.

It held that these two Florida individuals were required to come defend themselves in the California court.

I will discuss its reasons in more detail in a moment.

The Court of Appeal in California said it made this holding even though it found, and I quote,

"It may not be said that defendants' activities in California are extensive, wide-ranging, substantial, continuous, or systematic. "

The case comes before this Court on appeal rather than certiorari because the two individuals challenged in the lower courts the constitutionality of California's long arm jurisdiction statute as applied to them.