Blurbing of books possibly safe again (or not)

by Walter Olson on March 4, 2009

An update on the overreaching litigation of Dallas developer H. Walker Royall: “Prof. Richard Epstein Dismissed from Book-Blurb Libel Case, on Jurisdictional Grounds”. [Volokh, earlier here and here].

P.S. Commenter VMS points out that despite my choice of original headline, blurbing of books has by no means been made safe, since the judge dismissed Royall’s claim only on jurisdictional grounds that Epstein was not within the reach of the Texas courts. I’ve added to the post title accordingly.

{ 1 comment }

1 VMS 03.04.09 at 7:17 am

Blurbing of books is not safe again, unless done from a great distance, and even then you can be sued in your home state. Walter, you missed the reason for the dismissal, even though the the title says “on jurisdictional grounds.” The article further says:

“Epstein is now out of the lawsuit. Dallas Judge Carlos Cortez ordered Epstein’s dismissal after Royall failed to show that the Texas court had jurisdiction over the Illinois resident, who has not been to Texas in more than 13 years.”

This means that Epstein cannot be sued in Texas because he lacks the “minimum contacts” with that state for personal jurisdiction to constitutionally attach.

The “long-arm” statutes of many states (I did not research Texas) provides for jurisdiction over tortious acts of non-domicilliaries within the state. Most except defamation causes of action.

New York’s long arm statute, CPLR 302 is follows, and pretty much states the constitutional boundaries of International Shoe as modified by subsequent Supreme Court cases:

§ 302. Personal jurisdiction by acts of non-domiciliaries. (a) Acts
which are the basis of jurisdiction. As to a cause of action arising
from any of the acts enumerated in this section, a court may exercise
personal jurisdiction over any non-domiciliary, or his executor or
administrator, who in person or through an agent:
1. transacts any business within the state or contracts anywhere to supply goods or services in the state; or
2. commits a tortious act within the state, except as to a cause of
action for defamation of character arising from the act; or
3. commits a tortious act without the state causing injury to person or property within the state, except as to a cause of action for defamation of character arising from the act, if he
(i) regularly does or solicits business, or engages in any other
persistent course of conduct, or derives substantial revenue from goods used or consumed or services rendered, in the state, or
(ii) expects or should reasonably expect the act to have consequences in the state and derives substantial revenue from interstate or international commerce; or
4. owns, uses or possesses any real property situated within the
state.
(b) Personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendant in matrimonial actions or family court proceedings. A court in any matrimonial action or family court proceeding involving a demand for support, alimony, maintenance, distributive awards or special relief in matrimonial actions may exercise personal jurisdiction over the respondent or defendant notwithstanding the fact that he or she no longer is a resident or domiciliary of this state, or over his or her executor or administrator, if the party seeking support is a resident of or domiciled in this state at the time such demand is made, provided that this state was the matrimonial domicile of the parties before their separation, or the defendant abandoned the plaintiff in this state, or the claim for support, alimony, maintenance, distributive awards or special relief in matrimonial actions accrued under the laws of this state or under an agreement executed in this state. The family court may
exercise personal jurisdiction over a non-resident respondent to the extent provided in sections one hundred fifty-four and one thousand thirty-six and article five-B of the family court act and article five-A of the domestic relations law.
(c) Effect of appearance. Where personal jurisdiction is based solely upon this section, an appearance does not confer such jurisdiction with respect to causes of action not arising from an act enumerated in this section.
(d) Foreign defamation judgment. The courts of this state shall have personal jurisdiction over any person who obtains a judgment in a defamation proceeding outside the United States against any person who is a resident of New York or is a person or entity amenable to jurisdiction in New York who has assets in New York or may have to take actions in New York to comply with the judgment, for the purposes of rendering declaratory relief with respect to that person’s liability for the judgment, and/or for the purpose of determining whether said judgment should be deemed non-recognizable pursuant to section fifty-three hundred four of this chapter, to the fullest extent permitted by the United States constitution, provided:
1. the publication at issue was published in New York, and
2. that resident or person amenable to jurisdiction in New York (i) has assets in New York which might be used to satisfy the foreign defamation judgment, or (ii) may have to take actions in New York to comply with the foreign defamation judgment. The provisions of this subdivision shall apply to persons who obtained judgments in defamation proceedings outside the United States prior to and/or after the effective date of this subdivision.

Comments on this entry are closed.