New opinion: removal to federal court doesn’t establish remover’s consent to jurisdiction

Danziger v. Verkamp—civil—affirmance—Bibas

Here’s the introduction of today’s Third Circuit opinion affirming dismissal for lack of personal jurisdiction:

Removal to federal court changes the field of play, but not the game being played. Two law firms, Danziger and Morgan Verkamp, spent almost a year and a half in Pennsylvania state court disputing and ultimately taking discovery over a referral fee before any complaint was filed. After Morgan Verkamp removed the case to federal court, it successfully challenged personal jurisdiction. Danziger now argues that either there is specific personal jurisdiction over Morgan Verkamp in Pennsylvania or that Morgan Verkamp waived that objection. Not so.

There is no specific jurisdiction because Danziger’s claims neither arise out of nor relate to Morgan Verkamp’s activities in Pennsylvania. Nor did Morgan Verkamp consent to personal jurisdiction by merely taking part in pre-complaint discovery, because Pennsylvania law does not let defendants object to jurisdiction until the plaintiff files a complaint. And as we clarify today, a defendant who chooses to remove to federal court does not thus consent to personal jurisdiction; the defendant carries the defenses it had in state court with it to federal court.

Plus, the District Court need not find Danziger a new playing field. When the parties suggest transferring a case with a jurisdictional defect, a district court should ordinarily balance the equities of doing so before deciding to dismiss the case with prejudice. But at oral argument, Danziger conceded that it does not need the District Court to transfer its case; it could timely refile its claims in another forum. So we need not remand to let the District Court consider transferring this case, but will instead affirm.

Joining Bibas were Ambro and Krause. Arguing counsel were Gavin Lentz of Bochetto & Lentz for the appellant and Tejinder Singh of Goldstein & Russell for the appellees.

Also today, the court issued an amended panel opinion in Thomas v. Deputy Superintendent, a split-panel prisoner-rights appeal involving so-called dry-celling. The new opinion is here; my summary of the prior opinion is here. As best I can tell, the changes are not substantive and the outcome remains the same. The court denied Thomas’s petition for rehearing en banc, with Judges McKee, Greenaway Jr. (the panel dissenter), and Restrepo dissenting.