New Jersey’s Long Arm of the Law

New Jersey’s long arm statute seems to have stretched a little too far in this decision. In Goldhaber v. Kohlenberg, the New Jersey Court of Appeals ran through a litany of internet jurisdiction cases, most of which held that a defamation defendant doesn’t get to sue in his home court — but must sue in the speaker’s home court. Unfortunately for free speech, the New Jersey court decided that since the speaker talked about Jersey a little too much, then Jersey jurisdiction it is.

The author not only knew that plaintiffs resided in New Jersey, he knew the municipality in which they resided and made specific disparaging references to that municipality in many of his postings. Certain of his postings were made in response to plaintiffs’ replies to the offending comments. He also made insulting comments about that municipality’s police department. In addition, he referred to plaintiffs’ neighbors in the apartment complex in which they resided and at one point even posted their address. Conduct of that nature and its connection to New Jersey “are such that [defendant] should reasonably [have] anticipate[d] being haled into court” here.

See also this post.

3 Responses to New Jersey’s Long Arm of the Law

  1. br says:

    I can’t say I’ve read every Internet defamation personal jurisdiction case, but aren’t most of the ones where no jurisdiction is found based, at least in part, on the fact that Defendant did not know where Plaintiff was located, and therefore Plaintiff couldn’t satisfy the Calder effects test? Even if I disagree with the decision in this case, I certainly don’t find it surprising. Neither the Zippo test nor the Calder test really fit well into the Internet defamation arena, but if courts everywhere are using the Calder test to find a lack of jurisdiction due to Defendant having no knowledge of Plaintiff’s home forum, then it was just a matter of time before a court flipped things around in a situation like this.

  2. I think you have it generally right, and under the facts in this case, perhaps the NJ Appellate Court got it right. However, it is far too fluid of a test and leaves us net-speakers a little bit at a loss. If I want to criticize the governor of North Dakota, should I reasonably anticipate that I will have to defend a defamation suit in Hawaii? I know he is there in North Dakota. I know it will affect his reputation in North Dakota. (Sure, I may get it dismissed because of a lack of actual malice, but I’ve already lost if I have to fly to North Dakota to defend myself, no?).

    Perhaps the time has come for us to have “internet courts.” Most federal cases are all “on the briefs” anyhow. Why not have internet courts with limited personal appearances? Or, you can just appear by web cam? Hmmm, gotta think about that one.

  3. br says:

    Heh, there are plenty of defamation-accusing crazies out there who already threaten to sue in the “internets court.”

    I had kind of forgotten about it, but when I first read your post (and before I commented), I was pondering the idea of Internet defamation courts. I think I considered the pros, cons, and feasibility of it at the time, but alas, the details escape me now. I’ve been pondering Internet personal jurisdiction issues for a few years now, and admit that I haven’t come up with any good ideas yet.

    Maybe if we can get a federal copyright small claims court (a pressing need as well), then we can figure out how to get an Internet defamation court to work.

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