Omni Capital Int'l v. Rudolf Wolff & Co.

484 U.S. 97, 108 S. Ct. 404 (1987)



Before a federal court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant, the procedural requirement of service of summons must be satisfied. Service of summons is the procedure by which a court having venue and jurisdiction of the subject matter of the suit asserts jurisdiction over the person of the party served. Thus, before a court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant, there must be more than notice to the defendant and a constitutionally sufficient relationship between the defendant and the forum. There also must be a basis for the defendant's amenability to service of summons. Absent consent, this means there must be authorization for service of summons on the defendant. 


Petitioners, corporate and individual investors, sued respondent corporation alleging fraudulent inducement to participate in an investment program, in violation of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA), 7 U.S.C.S. §§ 6b and 13(b). Respondent corporation impleaded respondents, a broker and its agent. The district court held that since the CEA did not provide for service of process, personal jurisdiction over respondents could be asserted only under the state long-arm statute; because it concluded that the requirements of the long-arm statute were not met, it dismissed all claims against respondents. The circuit court of appeals affirmed. On review, the court affirmed.


Did the district court have authorization under Rule 4(e) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to serve process on, and thus exercise personal jurisdiction over, the British parties?




Neither the CEA nor Fed. R. Civ. P. 4 authorized service of process on respondents, and that it lacked personal jurisdiction over them. The court agreed that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over respondents without authorization to serve process and that authorization was found in neither the CEA nor the state long-arm statute, which controlled under Fed. R. Civ. P. 4(e); it further declined to create a common-law rule authorizing service of process.

Click here to view the full text case and earn your Daily Research Points.