WASHINGTON, DC--(Marketwired - Nov 4, 2013) - Jeffrey Bucholtz, a partner with King & Spalding, argued today before the U.S. Supreme Court on behalf of the petitioner in Walden v. Fiore, No. 12-574.
The Court in Walden is considering important questions of personal jurisdiction and venue. Petitioner Anthony Walden is a Covington, Georgia, police officer who was working as a deputized U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent at Harstfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Respondents Gina Fiore and Keith Gipson are professional gamblers who were changing planes in Atlanta on their way from a gambling excursion in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to Las Vegas, Nevada, where they allegedly maintained a residence. Fiore and Gipson were carrying $97,000 in cash, which led to their questioning by DEA agents in San Juan and Atlanta. The respondents stated that the money was lawful gambling winnings, but after a narcotics-detecting dog alerted to the presence of contraband, Walden seized the cash. Respondents were allowed to board their flight to Las Vegas and were not arrested, and the government returned the money six months after the seizure.
Respondents Fiore and Gipson filed a Bivens (or constitutional tort) action against officer Walden in federal district court in Nevada. They contend that Walden violated their Fourth Amendment rights by seizing the cash, allegedly without probable cause, and by allegedly preparing a false or misleading affidavit in support of a potential forfeiture action. All of Walden's alleged conduct occurred in Georgia, and he argues that he lacks the required contacts with Nevada to be forced to defend this suit there. Respondents contend that Walden subjected himself to suit in Nevada by taking action in Georgia allegedly intending to cause them injury that he knew they would feel in Nevada. The district court granted Walden's motion to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction, but the Ninth Circuit reversed, holding that personal jurisdiction and venue were proper in Nevada.
The Supreme Court granted officer Walden's petition for certiorari to consider (1) whether due process permits a court to exercise personal jurisdiction over a defendant whose sole "contact" with the forum state is his knowledge that the plaintiff has connections to that state; and (2) whether 28 U.S.C. § 1391(b)(2), which permits venue in a district "in which a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred," permits venue where the plaintiff feels the effects of the defendant's allegedly tortious conduct occurring elsewhere.
"It is an honor to have the opportunity to represent officer Walden before the Supreme Court," said Bucholtz. "The Court's decision will have important implications not only for law enforcement officers who interact with travelers from all over the country, but also potentially for journalists, businesses and many other types of defendants. If an allegation that a defendant took intentional action directed at the plaintiff while knowing of the plaintiff's connections to the forum state is sufficient for that state to hale the defendant into court, then many types of defendants will face lawsuits far from home."
Bucholtz is supported by the United States as well as several other amici curiae, including a coalition of 18 states and the District of Columbia, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association. A decision is expected before the Court recesses in June 2014.
Bucholtz is a partner in the national appellate practice in the Washington, D.C., office of King & Spalding, and a member of the firm's business litigation team. He frequently represents clients in the U.S. Supreme Court and the federal and state appellate courts as well as on important legal issues in trial court litigation and government investigations. Walden v. Fiore is his second argument in the U.S. Supreme Court. He has argued over 25 appeals spanning most of the federal circuits and several state courts, involving subject areas ranging from the False Claims Act to U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulatory issues to product liability to national security. Before rejoining King & Spalding in 2009, Bucholtz served more than six years in leadership positions in the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, including six months as acting assistant attorney general. The Civil Division is the largest litigating component of the Justice Department, with over 800 attorneys.
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