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Kulko v. Superior Court

From lawbrain.com

Kulko v. Superior Court, 436 U.S. 84, 98 S. Ct. 1690, 5 6 L. Ed. 2d 132 (1978), is a civil procedure case in which the Supreme Court held that the Due Process Clause operates as a limitation on the jurisdiction of state courts over nonresident defendants. In order to exercise such jurisdiction, certain minimum contacts must be established so as to not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.

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Summary of Case Facts

Ezra Kulko (Plaintiff) married Sharon Kulko (Defendant) in 1959 during plaintiff’s three day stopover in California en route from a military base in Texas. At the time, both parties were domiciled in and residents of New York. The two lived in New York for 13 years and then separated. Plaintiff remained in New York with their children, while defendant moved to California. She briefly returned to sign a separation agreement providing the children would live in New York. Immediately afterward, defendant flew to Haiti and procured a divorce incorporating the terms of the agreement. In 1973, plaintiff’s daughter told her father that she wanted to remain in California after her Christmas vacation. Plaintiff bought her a one-way ticket. In 1976, plaintiff’s other child called his mother and told her he wanted to live with her in California. She sent him a plane ticket, and flew to California and took up residence with his mother and sister. Less than a month later, defendant commenced this action against plaintiff in the California Superior Court seeking to establish the Haitian divorce decree as a California judgment. Plaintiff appeared personally and moved to quash service of the summons on the ground that he was not a California resident and lacked sufficient minimum contacts with the State to warrant personal jurisdiction over him. The trial court denied the motion. The California Supreme Court sustained the lower court rulings.


Whether plaintiff has sufficient minimum contacts with California to allow California to assert personal jurisdiction over him in this matter.

Holding and Law

No. Plaintiff’s act of permitting his daughter to spend more time in California did not amount to his purposefully availing himself of the benefits and protections of California’s laws so as to permit California to assert personal jurisdiction. The Court found that the single act of permitting his daughter to spend more time in California than required under a separation agreement was insufficient to establish the minimum contacts with California such that it would not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice to assert personal jurisdiction over plaintiff.

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