Revell v. Lidov

317 F.3d 467 (5th Cir. 2002)



In the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in determining whether the operation of an internet site can support the minimum contacts necessary for the exercise of personal jurisdiction, courts have used a "sliding scale" to measure an internet site's connections to a forum state. A "passive" website, one that merely allows the owner to post information on the internet, is at one end of the scale. It will not be sufficient to establish personal jurisdiction. At the other end are sites whose owners engage in repeated online contacts with forum residents over the internet, and in these cases personal jurisdiction may be proper. In between are those sites with some interactive elements, through which a site allows for bilateral information exchange with its visitors. In this instance, courts are required to examine the extent of the interactivity and nature of the forum contacts. 


The former FBI Director, a resident of Texas, sued the university, which had its principal offices in New York City, and the author, a Massachusetts resident, in the Northern District of Texas. The former FBI director claimed damage to his professional reputation in Texas and emotional distress arising out of the alleged defamation. The court of appeals agreed with the district court that the cited contacts of the university with Texas were not in any way "substantial" where the article written by the author about the former FBI Director contained no reference to Texas, nor did it refer to the Texas activities of the former FBI Director, and it was not directed at Texas readers as distinguished from readers in other states. 


Could a district court properly exercise personal jurisdiction over defendants who had posted on the internet in another state?




Revell has failed to make out a prima facie case of personal jurisdiction over either defendant. General jurisdiction cannot be obtained over Columbia. Considering both the "effects" test of Calder and the low-level of interactivity of the internet bulletin board, we find the contacts with Texas insufficient to establish the jurisdiction of its courts, and hence the federal district court in Texas, over Columbia and Lidov. The court AFFIRM the dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction as to both defendants.

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