In order to hail a defendant into federal court, a plaintiff must establish personal jurisdiction and venue. Under general principles of federal law, personal jurisdiction is proper whenever the defendant would be amenable to suit under the laws of the state in which the federal court sits. And venue is proper in any district where the defendant "resides" (i.e., is subject to personal jurisdiction). Section 12 of the Clayton Act, however, supplements these general principles. It has a liberal service-of-process provision that allows personal jurisdiction in any federal district court in the nation. But venue is proper only in the district(s) the corporation inhabits, is found, or transacts business.
Congress obscurely drafted Section 12, however, and this has raised an important question: if a plaintiff relies on Section 12's nationwide service-of-process provision, must he establish venue under Section 12 as well? Or may he mix and match, relying on Section 12 for personal jurisdiction and 28 U.S.C. § 1391, the general federal statute, for venue?
In KM Enterprises, Inc. v. Global Traffic Technologies, Inc., the Seventh Circuit held that Section 12 must be read as a package deal: "[t]o avail oneself of the privilege of nationwide service of process, a plaintiff must satisfy the venue provisions of Section 12's first clause." This Comment argues that the Seventh Circuit reached the right result for the right reasons. It argues that Congress's obscure drafting demands a more careful and nuanced analysis. And it notes that Judge Wood's careful reasoning and plain, precise writing is a model for the plain-language reform that the legal profession sorely needs.
A Sight for Sore Eyes: The Seventh Circuit Correctly Interprets Section 12 of the Clayton Act,
Seventh Circuit Rev.
Available at: http://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/seventhcircuitreview/vol9/iss1/2