Walden v. Fiore

PETITIONER: Anthony Walden
RESPONDENT: Gina Fiore, Keith Gipson
LOCATION: Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport

DOCKET NO.: 12-574
DECIDED BY: Roberts Court (2010-2016)
LOWER COURT:

CITATION: 571 US (2014)
GRANTED: Mar 04, 2013
ARGUED: Nov 04, 2013
DECIDED: Feb 25, 2014

ADVOCATES:
Jeffrey S. Bucholtz - for the petitioner
Melissa Arbus Sherry - Assistant to the Solicitor General, Department of Justice, for the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioner
Thomas C. Goldstein - for the respondents

Facts of the case

In 2006 Gina Fiore and Keith Gipson traveled from Las Vegas, Nevada to Atlantic City, New Jersey, to San Juan, Puerto Rico before returning to Las Vegas by way of Atlanta, Georgia. The two are professional gamblers with residences in California and Las Vegas. At a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) checkpoint in San Juan, Fiore and Gipson were subjected to heightened security because they were travelling on a one-way ticket. TSA officers search the gamblers luggage and found $97,000 in U.S. currency. San Juan Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officers arrived and questioned the pair to determine whether the money was the proceeds of illegal drug trade. Fiore and Gipson stated that the cash was their seed money and winnings from gambling. The DEA let Fiore and Gipson board the plane to Atlanta with their luggage.

When Fiore and Gipson landed at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, Anthony Walden and other DEA agents approached and questioned them. Fiore and Gipson repeated their story and produced records of their travels. When a drug-detecting dog pawed Gipson's bag once, Walden stated that he had probable cause to seize the cash and took both Fiore and Gipson's bags before allowing them to continue on to Las Vegas without the money. When Fiore and Gipson got to Las Vegas they sent records of their gambling earnings along with past tax returns to prove their status as professional gamblers to Walden. Walden refused to return the money and referred the matter to a U.S. Attorney in Georgia based on a false probable cause affidavit. The U.S. Attorney found no probable cause and ordered the money returned. The money was returned to Fiore and Gipson seven months after it was seized.

Fiore and Gipson sued Walden in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada alleging that the seizure violated their Fourth Amendment rights. Walden moved to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, and the District Court granted the motion. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that the court did have personal jurisdiction because Walden intentionally caused foreseeable harm in Nevada by falsifying the probable cause affidavit and attempting to secure the seized funds permanently for the Atlanta DEA.

Question

Does due process allow the Nevada court to exercise personal jurisdiction over Walden?

Is the District of Nevada the place where "a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred" for purposes of establishing venue when all of defendant's alleged acts or omissions happened in another district?

Media for Walden v. Fiore

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 04, 2013 in Walden v. Fiore

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - February 25, 2014 in Walden v. Fiore

And Justice Thomas has our opinion this morning in case 12-574, Walden versus Fiore.

This case comes to us on the writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Petitioner in this case is a police officer who was working as a deputized agent of the Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA at an airport in Georgia.

While working there, petitioner seized a large amount of cash from respondents while they were waiting to board a plane.

Respondents who are from Nevada -- who are Nevada residents, filed a tort suit against petitioner in Federal District Court in Nevada.

They alleged that after petitioner seized their cash, he drafted a false affidavit to support forfeiture of the funds which prevented their money from being properly returned.

The District Court dismissed the suit for lack of personal jurisdiction over petitioner.

The Ninth Circuit reversed holding that the District Court could exercise jurisdiction because petitioner had drafted the affidavit with the knowledge that it would affect persons with connections to Nevada.

In an opinion filed with the clerk today, we reverse the judgment of the Ninth Circuit.

In order to determine whether the Federal District Court in Nevada was authorized to exercise jurisdiction over petitioner, we ask whether a Nevada state court could exercise jurisdiction over him consistent with the limits imposed by the Due Process Clause.

That inquiry focuses on the relationship between the defendant and the forum State.

This relationship must arise out of context that defendant himself creates with the forum.

The plaintiff cannot be the only link.

Applying these basic principles, we conclude that petitioner lacks the minimum contacts with Nevada required for the exercise of jurisdiction over him.

All of petitioner's alleged conduct occurred in Georgia.

None of that had anything to do with Nevada.

Respondents contend that they suffered the effects of the delayed return of their cash while residing in Nevada, but respondents would have experienced these effects wherever they happen to be -- could have been in California for example.

This alleged injury does not tie petitioner to Nevada in any meaningful way.

For these reasons and others set forth in our opinion, we reversed the judgment of the Ninth Circuit.

The opinion of the court is unanimous.