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Burnham v. Superior Court

From lawbrain.com

Burnham v. Superior Court of California, 495 U.S. 604, 110 S. Ct. 2105, 109 L. Ed. 2d 631 (1990), is a civil procedure case where the Supreme Court held that a state can gain personal jurisdiction over a nonresident defendant personally served with process while temporarily in the state.

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Summary of Case Facts

Mr. & Mrs. Burnham lived in New Jersey prior to their separation. Mrs. Burnham moved to California and filed for divorce in California state court. Mr. Burnham (Defendant) was visiting California on business when he was served with the divorce papers. The defendant’s primary reason for visiting California was for business but while there he visited his daughters. His only contacts with California were occasional brief visits for business and to visit his children. In a special appearance, Mr. Burnham moved to quash service, challenging that his contacts with California were insufficient to confer personal jurisdiction in the state of California. The Superior Court of California denied Mr. Burnham’s motion. The court held that his physical presence and personal service in the state of California constituted valid grounds for personal jurisdiction.


Whether a state gains personal jurisdiction over a nonresident who was personally served with process while temporarily in the state.

Holding and Law

Yes. States have jurisdiction over persons physically present in the State. Service of process on a party physically present in a state is not a violation of due process. The purpose for the party’s presence within the state is of no concern as long as his presence was voluntary. Mr. Burnham was physically present in the state of California voluntarily when he made brief visits for business and visiting his daughters.

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