Recent First Circuit opinions – Part II

The second recent First Circuit decision of interest is Hannon v. Cook:

This goes to the issue of personal jurisdiction.  The primary plaintiff was a prisoner who filed lots of lawsuits on behalf of himself and other prisoners challenging their conditions of confinement.  He alleged that the defendants had transferred him out of state in order to get rid of him and in retaliation.  He sued in the state he ended up, Massachusetts, against, among other people, officials in the Department of Correction for Pennsylvania, where the plaintiff had been convicted.  One Pennsylvania defendant was the prison librarian; the other was the Secretary of the Pennsylvania DOC.  The Court ruled that there was jurisdiction over the Secretary, who allegedly authorized and directed the transfer, but not the librarian, who was only alleged to have responded to his requests for legal materials that he sent from Massachusetts.  Noting that the Massachusetts long-arm statute’s requirement of "transacting business" was to be construed broadly, the Court of Appeals found that the Secretary’s contacts necessary to arrange the transfer were enough. The Secretary’s contacts were purposeful; the librarian’s were not.  The Court then examined whether the Secretary’s contacts were sufficient under the Constitution, using the 3-part relatedness, purposeful availment/minimum contacts and reasonableness test, and found them met.  The decision sets forth a thorough analysis and application of the 3-part test. 

For another First Circuit decision that applies the test, involving a New Hampshire forum, see Northern Laminate Sales v. Davis, 403 F.3d 14 (1st Cir. 2005).  That’s a case where we represented the plaintiff.  The suit was for fraud.  The plaintiff was located and sued in New Hampshire; the defendant lived and worked in New York.  The defendant invited the plaintiff to New York, where the fraudulent statement was allegedly uttered (the plaintiff prevailed at trial and the judgment was upheld).  The Court found that the emails and letters sent to the plaintiff in NH, along with the injury occurring in NH, met the constitutional test (the NH statute is co-extensive with the constitution).  Aside from presenting another application of the test, Northern Laminates is a useful decision because it discusses the burden of proof and mode of analysis depending on the stage of the case at which the motion to dismiss is made.   


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