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When a federal statute provides for nationwide service of process, it becomes the statutory basis for personal jurisdiction.
Plaintiff Republic of Panama filed the present action in the Southern District of Florida asserting claims under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act ("RICO"), 18 U.S.C. §§ 1961 et seq., and state law claims against several American and foreign banking entities. The complaint charged each of the defendants with participating in a scheme to assist former Panamanian military officer, Manuel Noriega, in illegally diverting Panamanian government funds for his personal use. The district court dismissed Panama's claims against First American Bank, N.A. and First American Bank of New York (the "First American defendants") for lack of personal jurisdiction and dismissed its claims with respect to the remaining defendants on the grounds of forum non conveniens. Plaintiff appealed.
The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it dismissed claims against defendant overseas bank entities for forum non conveniens. The court reversed the dismissal of claims against the First American defendants for lack of personal jurisdiction. The court held that the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C.S. § 1961 et seq., which authorized nationwide service of process, provided the statutory basis for personal jurisdiction. The court concluded that the due process clause, U.S. Const. amend. V, provided an independent constitutional limitation on the exercise of personal jurisdiction over a domestic defendant served pursuant to a federal statute's nationwide service of process provision. The constitutional limitation did not prevent personal jurisdiction over defendant domestic bank entities. However, the court nevertheless affirmed the dismissal of the plaintiff’s claim on the alternative ground that plaintiff failed to state a proper RICO claim against the First American defendants.