A precondition to a court’s exercising any measure of authority over an individual or an entity is the court’s establishment of personal jurisdiction. A court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant only if the forum state provides a statutory basis for exercising jurisdiction over the nonresident and the exercise of jurisdiction satisfies the constitutional due process standard. Personal jurisdiction is one of the most commonly litigated issues today, due primarily to confusion over the constitutional standard.
Commentators and courts write extensively about the constitutional prerequisites for personal jurisdiction, but say little about state long-arm statutes. Perhaps this should not come as a surprise. Long-arm statutes are often similar from state to state. Their interpretation is usually dry and straightforward. The Due Process Clause enables courts and commentators to be creative. Nevertheless, long-arm statutes provide at least one issue that merits consideration: states differ on whether their respective long-arm statutes apply retroactively and in their reasoning. These differences can decide a case, lead to illogical results, and affect judicial efficiency. For those reasons, this Note surveys the current position of the states on longarm statute retroactivity and examines differences in the states’ reasoning. Hopefully the discussion serves as a useful summary of state law and provides helpful suggestions for future long-arm statute drafting and interpretation.