Certiorari To The Supreme Court Of North Carolina

No. 15-1194. Argued February 27, 2017--Decided June 19, 2017

North Carolina law makes it a felony for a registered sex offender “to access a commercial social networking Web site where the sex offender knows that the site permits minor children to become members or to create or maintain personal Web pages.” N. C. Gen. Stat. Ann. 14–202.5(a), (e). According to sources cited to the Court, the State has prosecuted over 1,000 people for violating this law, including petitioner, who was indicted after posting a statement on his personal Facebook profile about a positive experience in traffic court. The trial court denied petitioner’s motion to dismiss the indictment on the ground that the law violated the First Amendment. He was convicted and given a suspended prison sentence. On appeal, the State Court of Appeals struck down 14–202.5 on First Amendment grounds, but the State Supreme Court reversed.

Held: The North Carolina statute impermissibly restricts lawful speech in violation of the First Amendment. Pp. 4–10.

(a) A fundamental First Amendment principle is that all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen, and then, after reflection, speak and listen once more. Today, one of the most important places to exchange views is cyberspace, particularly social media, which offers “relatively unlimited, low-cost capacity for communication of all kinds,” Reno v. American Civil Liberties Union, 521 U. S. 844, to users engaged in a wide array of protected First Amendment activity on any number of diverse topics. The Internet’s forces and directions are so new, so protean, and so far reaching that courts must be conscious that what they say today may be obsolete tomorrow. Here, in one of the first cases the Court has taken to address the relationship between the First Amendment and the modern Internet, the Court must exercise extreme caution before suggesting that the First Amendment provides scant protection for access to vast networks in that medium. Pp. 4–6.

(b) This background informs the analysis of the statute at issue. Even assuming that the statute is content neutral and thus subject to intermediate scrutiny, the provision is not “ ‘ “narrowly tailored to serve a significant governmental interest.” ’ ” McCullen v. Coakley, 573 U. S. ___, ___. Like other inventions heralded as advances in human progress, the Internet and social media will be exploited by the criminal mind. It is also clear that “sexual abuse of a child is a most serious crime and an act repugnant to the moral instincts of a decent people,” Ashcroft v. Free Speech Coalition, 535 U. S. 234, and that a legislature “may pass valid laws to protect children” and other sexual assault victims, id., at 245. However, the assertion of a valid governmental interest “cannot, in every context, be insulated from all constitutional protections.” Stanley v. Georgia, 394 U. S. 557.

Two assumptions are made in resolving this case. First, while the Court need not decide the statute’s precise scope, it is enough to assume that the law applies to commonplace social networking sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Second, the Court assumes that the First Amendment permits a State to enact specific, narrowly-tailored laws that prohibit a sex offender from engaging in conduct that often presages a sexual crime, like contacting a minor or using a website to gather information about a minor.

Even with these assumptions, the statute here enacts a prohibition unprecedented in the scope of First Amendment speech it burdens. Social media allows users to gain access to information and communicate with one another on any subject that might come to mind. With one broad stroke, North Carolina bars access to what for many are the principal sources for knowing current events, checking ads for employment, speaking and listening in the modern public square, and otherwise exploring the vast realms of human thought and knowledge. Foreclosing access to social media altogether thus prevents users from engaging in the legitimate exercise of First Amendment rights. Even convicted criminals—and in some instances especially convicted criminals—might receive legitimate benefits from these means for access to the world of ideas, particularly if they seek to reform and to pursue lawful and rewarding lives. Pp. 6–8.

(c) The State has not met its burden to show that this sweeping law is necessary or legitimate to serve its purpose of keeping convicted sex offenders away from vulnerable victims. No case or holding of this Court has approved of a statute as broad in its reach. The State relies on Burson v. Freeman, 504 U. S. 191, but that case considered a more limited restriction—prohibiting campaigning within 100 feet of a polling place—in order to protect the fundamental right to vote. The Court noted, moreover, that a larger buffer zone could “become an impermissible burden” under the First Amendment. Id., at 210. The better analogy is Board of Airport Comm’rs of Los Angeles v. Jews for Jesus, Inc., 482 U. S. 569. If an ordinance prohibiting any “ First Amendment activities” at a single Los Angeles airport could be struck down because it covered all manner of protected, nondisruptive behavior, including “talking and reading, or the wearing of campaign buttons or symbolic clothing,” id., at 571, 575, it follows with even greater force that the State may not enact this complete bar to the exercise of First Amendment rights on websites integral to the fabric of modern society and culture. Pp. 9–10.

368 N. C. 380, 777 S. E. 2d 738, reversed and remanded.

Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Alito, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which Roberts, C. J., and Thomas, J., joined. Gorsuch, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.


Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Federal Circuit

No. 15-1293. Argued January 18, 2017--Decided June 19, 2017

Simon Tam, lead singer of the rock group “The Slants,” chose this moniker in order to “reclaim” the term and drain its denigrating force as a derogatory term for Asian persons. Tam sought federal registration of the mark “THE SLANTS.” The Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) denied the application under a Lanham Act provision prohibiting the registration of trademarks that may “disparage . . . or bring . . . into contemp[t] or disrepute” any “persons, living or dead.” 15 U. S. C. 1052(a). Tam contested the denial of registration through the administrative appeals process, to no avail. He then took the case to federal court, where the en banc Federal Circuit ultimately found the disparagement clause facially unconstitutional under the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause.

Held: The judgment is affirmed.

808 F. 3d 1321, affirmed.

Justice Alito delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and III–A, concluding:

1. The disparagement clause applies to marks that disparage the members of a racial or ethnic group. Tam’s view, that the clause applies only to natural or juristic persons, is refuted by the plain terms of the clause, which uses the word “persons.” A mark that disparages a “substantial” percentage of the members of a racial or ethnic group necessarily disparages many “persons,” namely, members of that group. Tam’s narrow reading also clashes with the breadth of the disparagement clause, which by its terms applies not just to “persons,” but also to “institutions” and “beliefs.” 1052(a). Had Congress wanted to confine the reach of the clause, it could have used the phrase “particular living individual,” which it used in neighboring 1052(c). Tam contends that his interpretation is supported by legislative history and by the PTO’s practice for many years of registering marks that plainly denigrated certain groups. But an inquiry into the meaning of the statute’s text ceases when, as here, “the statutory language is unambiguous and the statutory scheme is coherent and consistent.” Barnhart v. Sigmon Coal Co., 534 U. S. 438 (internal quotation marks omitted). Even if resort to legislative history and early enforcement practice were appropriate, Tam has presented nothing showing a congressional intent to adopt his interpretation, and the PTO’s practice in the years following the disparagement clause’s enactment is unenlightening. Pp. 8–12.

2. The disparagement clause violates the First Amendment’s Free Speech Clause. Contrary to the Government’s contention, trademarks are private, not government speech. Because the “Free Speech Clause . . . does not regulate government speech,” Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, 555 U. S. 460, the government is not required to maintain viewpoint neutrality on its own speech. This Court exercises great caution in extending its government-speech precedents, for if private speech could be passed off as government speech by simply affixing a government seal of approval, government could silence or muffle the expression of disfavored viewpoints.

The Federal Government does not dream up the trademarks registered by the PTO. Except as required by 1052(a), an examiner may not reject a mark based on the viewpoint that it appears to express. If the mark meets the Lanham Act’s viewpoint-neutral requirements, registration is mandatory. And once a mark is registered, the PTO is not authorized to remove it from the register unless a party moves for cancellation, the registration expires, or the Federal Trade Commission initiates proceedings based on certain grounds. It is thus far-fetched to suggest that the content of a registered mark is government speech, especially given the fact that if trademarks become government speech when they are registered, the Federal Government is babbling prodigiously and incoherently. And none of this Court’s government-speech cases supports the idea that registered trademarks are government speech. Johanns v. Livestock Marketing Assn., 544 U. S. 550; Pleasant Grove City v. Summum, 555 U. S. 460; and Walker v. Texas Div., Sons of Confederate Veterans, Inc., 576 U. S. ___, distinguished. Holding that the registration of a trademark converts the mark into government speech would constitute a huge and dangerous extension of the government-speech doctrine, for other systems of government registration (such as copyright) could easily be characterized in the same way. Pp. 12–18.

Justice Alito, joined by The Chief Justice, Justice Thomas, and Justice Breyer, concluded in Parts III–B, III–C, and IV:

(a) The Government’s argument that this case is governed by the Court’s subsidized-speech cases is unpersuasive. Those cases all involved cash subsidies or their equivalent, e.g., funds to private parties for family planning services in Rust v. Sullivan, 500 U. S. 173, and cash grants to artists in National Endowment for Arts v. Finley, 524 U. S. 569. The federal registration of a trademark is nothing like these programs. The PTO does not pay money to parties seeking registration of a mark; it requires the payment of fees to file an application and to maintain the registration once it is granted. The Government responds that registration provides valuable non-monetary benefits traceable to the Government’s resources devoted to registering the marks, but nearly every government service requires the expenditure of government funds. This is true of services that benefit everyone, like police and fire protection, as well as services that are utilized by only some, e.g., the adjudication of private lawsuits and the use of public parks and highways. Pp. 18–20.

(b) Also unpersuasive is the Government’s claim that the disparagement clause is constitutional under a “government-program” doctrine, an argument which is based on a merger of this Court’s government-speech cases and subsidy cases. It points to two cases involving a public employer’s collection of union dues from its employees, Davenport v. Washington Ed. Assn., 551 U. S. 177, and Ysursa v. Pocatello Ed. Assn., 555 U. S. 353, but these cases occupy a special area of First Amendment case law that is far removed from the registration of trademarks. Cases in which government creates a limited public forum for private speech, thus allowing for some content- and speaker-based restrictions, see, e.g., Good News Club v. Milford Central School, 533 U. S. 98–107; Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U. S. 819, are potentially more analogous. But even in those cases, viewpoint discrimination is forbidden. The disparagement clause denies registration to any mark that is offensive to a substantial percentage of the members of any group. That is viewpoint discrimination in the sense relevant here: Giving offense is a viewpoint. The “public expression of ideas may not be prohibited merely because the ideas are themselves offensive to some of their hearers.” Street v. New York, 394 U. S. 576. Pp. 20–23.

(c) The dispute between the parties over whether trademarks are commercial speech subject to the relaxed scrutiny outlined in Central Hudson Gas & Elect. v. Public Serv. Comm’n of N. Y., 447 U. S. 557, need not be resolved here because the disparagement clause cannot withstand even Central Hudson review. Under Central Hudson, a restriction of speech must serve “a substantial interest” and be “narrowly drawn.” Id., at 564–565 (internal quotation marks omitted). One purported interest is in preventing speech expressing ideas that offend, but that idea strikes at the heart of the First Amendment. The second interest asserted is protecting the orderly flow of commerce from disruption caused by trademarks that support invidious discrimination; but the clause, which reaches any trademark that disparages any person, group, or institution, is not narrowly drawn. Pp. 23–26.

Justice Kennedy, joined by Justice Ginsburg, Justice Sotomayor, and Justice Kagan, agreed that 15 U. S. C. 1052(a) constitutes viewpoint discrimination, concluding:

(a) With few narrow exceptions, a fundamental principle of the First Amendment is that the government may not punish or suppress speech based on disapproval of the ideas or perspectives the speech conveys. See Rosenberger v. Rector and Visitors of Univ. of Va., 515 U. S. 819–829. The test for viewpoint discrimination is whether—within the relevant subject category—the government has singled out a subset of messages for disfavor based on the views expressed. Here, the disparagement clause identifies the relevant subject as “persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols,” 1052(a); and within that category, an applicant may register a positive or benign mark but not a derogatory one. The law thus reflects the Government’s disapproval of a subset of messages it finds offensive, the essence of viewpoint discrimination. The Government’s arguments in defense of the statute are unpersuasive. Pp. 2–5.

(b) Regardless of whether trademarks are commercial speech, the viewpoint based discrimination here necessarily invokes heightened scrutiny. See Sorrell v. IMS Health Inc., 564 U. S. 552. To the extent trademarks qualify as commercial speech, they are an example of why that category does not serve as a blanket exemption from the First Amendment’s requirement of viewpoint neutrality. In the realm of trademarks, the metaphorical marketplace of ideas becomes a tangible, powerful reality. To permit viewpoint discrimination in this context is to permit Government censorship. Pp. 5–7.

Alito, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, and III–A, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined, and in which Thomas, J., joined except for Part II, and an opinion with respect to Parts III–B, III–C, and IV, in which Roberts, C. J., and Thomas and Breyer, JJ., joined. Kennedy, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Thomas, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Gorsuch, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.


Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Second Circuit

No. 15-1358. Argued January 18, 2017--Decided June 19, 2017 1

In the immediate aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, the Federal Government ordered hundreds of illegal aliens to be taken into custody and held pending a determination whether a particular detainee had connections to terrorism. Respondents, six men of Arab or South Asian descent, were detained for periods of three to six months in a federal facility in Brooklyn. After their release, they were removed from the United States. They then filed this putative class action against petitioners, two groups of federal officials. The first group consisted of former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Federal Bureau of Investigation Director Robert Mueller, and former Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner James Ziglar (Executive Officials). The second group consisted of the facility’s warden and assistant warden Dennis Hasty and James Sherman (Wardens). Respondents sought damages for constitutional violations under the implied cause of action theory adopted in Bivens v. Six Unknown Fed. Narcotics Agents, 403 U. S. 388, alleging that petitioners detained them in harsh pretrial conditions for a punitive purpose, in violation of the Fifth Amendment; that petitioners did so because of their actual or apparent race, religion, or national origin, in violation of the Fifth Amendment; that the Wardens subjected them to punitive strip searches, in violation of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments; and that the Wardens knowingly allowed the guards to abuse them, in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Respondents also brought a claim under 42 U. S. C. 1985(3), which forbids certain conspiracies to violate equal protection rights. The District Court dismissed the claims against the Executive Officials but allowed the claims against the Wardens to go forward. The Second Circuit affirmed in most respects as to the Wardens but reversed as to the Executive Officials, reinstating respondents’ claims.

Held: The judgment is reversed in part and vacated and remanded in part.

789 F. 3d 218, reversed in part and vacated and remanded in part.

Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part IV–B, concluding:

1. The limited reach of the Bivens action informs the decision whether an implied damages remedy should be recognized here. Pp. 6–14.

(a) In 42 U. S. C. 1983, Congress provided a specific damages remedy for plaintiffs whose constitutional rights were violated by state officials, but Congress provided no corresponding remedy for constitutional violations by agents of the Federal Government. In 1971, and against this background, this Court recognized in Bivens an implied damages action to compensate persons injured by federal officers who violated the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures. In the following decade, the Court allowed Bivens-type remedies twice more, in a Fifth Amendment gender-discrimination case, Davis v. Passman, 442 U. S. 228, and in an Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause case, Carlson v. Green, 446 U. S. 14. These are the only cases in which the Court has approved of an implied damages remedy under the Constitution itself. Pp. 6–7.

(b) Bivens, Davis, and Carlson were decided at a time when the prevailing law assumed that a proper judicial function was to “provide such remedies as are necessary to make effective” a statute’s purpose. J. I. Case Co. v. Borak, 377 U. S. 426. The Court has since adopted a far more cautious course, clarifying that, when deciding whether to recognize an implied cause of action, the “determinative” question is one of statutory intent. Alexander v. Sandoval, 532 U. S. 275. If a statute does not evince Congress’ intent “to create the private right of action asserted,” Touche Ross & Co. v. Redington, 442 U. S. 560, no such action will be created through judicial mandate. Similar caution must be exercised with respect to damages actions implied to enforce the Constitution itself. Bivens is well-settled law in its own context, but expanding the Bivens remedy is now considered a “disfavored” judicial activity. Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U. S. 662.

When a party seeks to assert an implied cause of action under the Constitution, separation-of-powers principles should be central to the analysis. The question is whether Congress or the courts should decide to authorize a damages suit. Bush v. Lucas, 462 U. S. 367. Most often it will be Congress, for Bivens will not be extended to a new context if there are “ ‘special factors counselling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress.’ ” Carlson, supra, at 18. If there are sound reasons to think Congress might doubt the efficacy or necessity of a damages remedy as part of the system for enforcing the law and correcting a wrong, courts must refrain from creating that kind of remedy. An alternative remedial structure may also limit the Judiciary’s power to infer a new Bivens cause of action. Pp. 8–14.

2. Considering the relevant special factors here, a Bivens-type remedy should not be extended to the claims challenging the confinement conditions imposed on respondents pursuant to the formal policy adopted by the Executive Officials in the wake of the September 11 attacks. These “detention policy claims” include the allegations that petitioners violated respondents’ due process and equal protection rights by holding them in restrictive conditions of confinement, and the allegations that the Wardens violated the Fourth and Fifth Amendments by subjecting respondents to frequent strip searches. The detention policy claims do not include the guard-abuse claim against Warden Hasty. Pp. 14–23.

(a) The proper test for determining whether a claim arises in a new Bivens context is as follows. If the case is different in a meaningful way from previous Bivens cases decided by this Court, then the context is new. Meaningful differences may include, e.g., the rank of the officers involved; the constitutional right at issue; the extent of judicial guidance for the official conduct; the risk of disruptive intrusion by the Judiciary into the functioning of other branches; or the presence of potential special factors not considered in previous Bivens cases. Respondents’ detention policy claims bear little resemblance to the three Bivens claims the Court has approved in previous cases. The Second Circuit thus should have held that this was a new Bivens context and then performed a special factors analysis before allowing this damages suit to proceed. Pp. 15–17.

(b) The special factors here indicate that Congress, not the courts, should decide whether a damages action should be allowed.

With regard to the Executive Officials, a Bivens action is not “a proper vehicle for altering an entity’s policy,” Correctional Services Corp. v. Malesko, 534 U. S. 61, and is not designed to hold officers responsible for acts of their subordinates, see Iqbal, supra, at 676. Even an action confined to the Executive Officers’ own discrete conduct would call into question the formulation and implementation of a high-level executive policy, and the burdens of that litigation could prevent officials from properly discharging their duties, see Cheney v. United States Dist. Court for D. C., 542 U. S. 367. The litigation process might also implicate the discussion and deliberations that led to the formation of the particular policy, requiring courts to interfere with sensitive Executive Branch functions. See Clinton v. Jones, 520 U. S. 681.

Other special factors counsel against extending Bivens to cover the detention policy claims against any of the petitioners. Because those claims challenge major elements of the Government’s response to the September 11 attacks, they necessarily require an inquiry into national-security issues. National-security policy, however, is the prerogative of Congress and the President, and courts are “reluctant to intrude upon” that authority absent congressional authorization. Department of Navy v. Egan, 484 U. S. 518. Thus, Congress’ failure to provide a damages remedy might be more than mere oversight, and its silence might be more than “inadvertent.” Schweiker v. Chilicky, 487 U. S. 412. That silence is also relevant and telling here, where Congress has had nearly 16 years to extend “the kind of remedies [sought by] respondents,” id., at 426, but has not done so. Respondents also may have had available “ ‘other alternative forms of judicial relief,’ ” Minneci v. Pollard, 565 U. S. 118, including injunctions and habeas petitions.

The proper balance in situations like this, between deterring constitutional violations and freeing high officials to make the lawful decisions necessary to protect the Nation in times of great peril, is one for the Congress to undertake, not the Judiciary. The Second Circuit thus erred in allowing respondents’ detention policy claims to proceed under Bivens. Pp. 17–23.

3. The Second Circuit also erred in allowing the prisoner abuse claim against Warden Hasty to go forward without conducting the required special factors analysis. Respondents’ prisoner abuse allegations against Warden Hasty state a plausible ground to find a constitutional violation should a Bivens remedy be implied. But the first question is whether the claim arises in a new Bivens context. This claim has significant parallels to Carlson, which extended Bivens to cover a failure to provide medical care to a prisoner, but this claim nevertheless seeks to extend Carlson to a new context. The constitutional right is different here: Carlson was predicated on the Eighth Amendment while this claim was predicated on the Fifth. The judicial guidance available to this warden with respect to his supervisory duties was less developed. There might have been alternative remedies available. And Congress did not provide a standalone damages remedy against federal jailers when it enacted the Prison Litigation Reform Act some 15 years after Carlson. Given this Court’s expressed caution about extending the Bivens remedy, this context must be regarded as a new one. Pp. 23–26.

4. Petitioners are entitled to qualified immunity with respect to respondents’ claims under 42 U. S. C. 1985(3). Pp. 26–32.

(a) Assuming that respondents’ allegations are true and well pleaded, the question is whether a reasonable officer in petitioners’ position would have known the alleged conduct was an unlawful conspiracy. The qualified-immunity inquiry turns on the “objective legal reasonableness” of the official’s acts, Harlow v. Fitzgerald, 457 U. S. 800, “assessed in light of the legal rules that were ‘clearly established’ at the time [the action] was taken,” Anderson v. Creighton, 483 U. S. 635. If it would have been clear to a reasonable officer that the alleged conduct “was unlawful in the situation he confronted,” Saucier v. Katz, 533 U. S. 194, the defendant officer is not entitled to qualified immunity. But if a reasonable officer might not have known that the conduct was unlawful, then the officer is entitled to qualified immunity. Pp. 27–29.

(b) Here, reasonable officials in petitioners’ positions would not have known with sufficient certainty that 1985(3) prohibited their joint consultations and the resulting policies. There are two reasons. First, the conspiracy is alleged to have been among officers in the same Department of the Federal Government. And there is no clearly established law on the issue whether agents of the same executive department are distinct enough to “conspire” with one another within the meaning of 42 U. S. C. 1985(3). Second, open discussion among federal officers should be encouraged to help those officials reach consensus on department policies, so there is a reasonable argument that 1985(3) liability should not extend to cases like this one. As these considerations indicate, the question whether federal officials can be said to “conspire” in these kinds of situations is sufficiently open that the officials in this suit would not have known that 1985(3) applied to their discussions and actions. It follows that reasonable officers in petitioners’ positions would not have known with any certainty that the alleged agreements were forbidden by that statute. Pp. 29–32.

Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II, III, IV–A, and V, in which Roberts, C. J., and Thomas and Alito, JJ., joined, and an opinion with respect to Part IV–B, in which Roberts, C. J., and Alito, J., joined. Thomas, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment. Breyer, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Ginsburg, J., joined. Sotomayor, Kagan, and Gorsuch, JJ., took no part in the consideration or decision of the cases.

1 Together with No. 15–1359, Ashcroft, Former Attorney General, et al. v. Abbasi et al., and No. 15–1363, Hasty et al. v. Abbasi et al., also on certiorari to the same court.


Certiorari To The Supreme Court Of California

No. 16-466. Argued April 25, 2017--Decided June 19, 2017

A group of plaintiffs, most of whom are not California residents, sued Bristol-Myers Squibb Company (BMS) in California state court, alleging that the pharmaceutical company’s drug Plavix had damaged their health. BMS is incorporated in Delaware and headquartered in New York, and it maintains substantial operations in both New York and New Jersey. Although it engages in business activities in California and sells Plavix there, BMS did not develop, create a marketing strategy for, manufacture, label, package, or work on the regulatory approval for Plavix in the State. And the nonresident plaintiffs did not allege that they obtained Plavix from a California source, that they were injured by Plavix in California, or that they were treated for their injuries in California.

The California Superior Court denied BMS’s motion to quash service of summons on the nonresidents’ claims for lack of personal jurisdiction, concluding that BMS’s extensive activities in the State gave the California courts general jurisdiction. Following this Court’s decision in Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U. S. ___, the State Court of Appeal found that the California courts lacked general jurisdiction. But the Court of Appeal went on to find that the California courts had specific jurisdiction over the claims brought by the nonresident plaintiffs. Affirming, the State Supreme Court applied a “sliding scale approach” to specific jurisdiction, concluding that BMS’s “wide ranging” contacts with the State were enough to support a finding of specific jurisdiction over the claims brought by the nonresident plaintiffs. That attenuated connection was met, the court held, in part because the nonresidents’ claims were similar in many ways to the California residents’ claims and because BMS engaged in other activities in the State.

Held: California courts lack specific jurisdiction to entertain the nonresidents’ claims. Pp. 4–12.

(a) The personal jurisdiction of state courts is “subject to review for compatibility with the Fourteenth Amendment’s Due Process Clause.” Goodyear Dunlop Tires Operations, S. A. v. Brown, 564 U. S. 915. This Court’s decisions have recognized two types of personal jurisdiction: general and specific. For general jurisdiction, the “paradigm forum” is an “individual’s domicile,” or, for corporations, “an equivalent place, one in which the corporation is fairly regarded as at home.” Id., at 924. Specific jurisdiction, however, requires “the suit” to “aris[e] out of or relat[e] to the defendant’s contacts with the forum.” Daimler, supra, at ___ (internal quotation marks omitted).

The “primary concern” in assessing personal jurisdiction is “the burden on the defendant.” World-Wide Volkswagen Corp. v. Woodson, 444 U. S. 286. Assessing this burden obviously requires a court to consider the practical problems resulting from litigating in the forum, but it also encompasses the more abstract matter of submitting to the coercive power of a State that may have little legitimate interest in the claims in question. At times, “the Due Process Clause, acting as an instrument of interstate federalism, may . . . divest the State of its power to render a valid judgment.” Id., at 294. Pp. 4–7.

(b) Settled principles of specific jurisdiction control this case. For a court to exercise specific jurisdiction over a claim there must be an “affiliation between the forum and the underlying controversy, principally, [an] activity or an occurrence that takes place in the forum State.” Goodyear, supra, at 919 (internal quotation marks and brackets omitted). When no such connection exists, specific jurisdiction is lacking regardless of the extent of a defendant’s unconnected activities in the State. The California Supreme Court’s “sliding scale approach”—which resembles a loose and spurious form of general jurisdiction—is thus difficult to square with this Court’s precedents. That court found specific jurisdiction without identifying any adequate link between the State and the nonresidents’ claims. The mere fact that other plaintiffs were prescribed, obtained, and ingested Plavix in California does not allow the State to assert specific jurisdiction over the nonresidents’ claims. Nor is it sufficient (or relevant) that BMS conducted research in California on matters unrelated to Plavix. What is needed is a connection between the forum and the specific claims at issue. Cf. Walden v. Fiore, 571 U. S. ___. Pp. 7–9.

(c) The nonresident plaintiffs’ reliance on Keeton v. Hustler Magazine, Inc., 465 U. S. 770, and Phillips Petroleum Co. v. Shutts, 472 U. S. 797, is misplaced. Keeton concerned jurisdiction to determine the scope of a claim involving in-state injury and injury to residents of the State, not, as here, jurisdiction to entertain claims involving no in-state injury and no injury to residents of the forum State. And Shutts, which concerned the due process rights of plaintiffs, has no bearing on the question presented here. Pp. 9–11.

(d) BMS’s decision to contract with McKesson, a California company, to distribute Plavix nationally does not provide a sufficient basis for personal jurisdiction. It is not alleged that BMS engaged in relevant acts together with McKesson in California or that BMS is derivatively liable for McKesson’s conduct in California. The bare fact that BMS contracted with a California distributor is not enough to establish personal jurisdiction in the State. Pp. 11–12.

(e) The Court’s decision will not result in the parade of horribles that respondents conjure up. It does not prevent the California and out-of-state plaintiffs from joining together in a consolidated action in the States that have general jurisdiction over BMS. Alternatively, the nonresident plaintiffs could probably sue together in their respective home States. In addition, since this decision concerns the due process limits on the exercise of specific jurisdiction by a State, the question remains open whether the Fifth Amendment imposes the same restrictions on the exercise of personal jurisdiction by a federal court. P. 12.

1 Cal. 5th 783, 377 P. 3d 874, reversed and remanded.

Alito, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Roberts, C. J., and Kennedy, Thomas, Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan, and Gorsuch, JJ., joined. Sotomayor, J., filed a dissenting opinion.


Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Eleventh Circuit

No. 16-5294. Argued April 24, 2017--Decided June 19, 2017

Ake v. Oklahoma, 470 U. S. 68, clearly established that when an indigent “defendant demonstrates . . . that his sanity at the time of the offense is to be a significant fact at trial, the State must” provide the defendant with “access to a competent psychiatrist who will conduct an appropriate examination and assist in evaluation, preparation, and presentation of the defense.”

One month after Ake was decided, Alabama charged petitioner McWilliams with rape and murder. Finding him indigent, the trial court appointed counsel, who requested a psychiatric evaluation of McWilliams. The court granted the motion and the State convened a commission, which concluded that McWilliams was competent to stand trial and had not been suffering from mental illness at the time of the alleged offense. A jury convicted McWilliams of capital murder and recommended a death sentence. Later, while the parties awaited McWilliams’ judicial sentencing hearing, McWilliams’ counsel asked for neurological and neuropsychological testing of McWilliams. The court agreed and McWilliams was examined by Dr. Goff. Dr. Goff filed a report two days before the judicial sentencing hearing. He concluded that McWilliams was likely exaggerating his symptoms, but nonetheless appeared to have some genuine neuropsychological problems. Just before the hearing, counsel also received updated records from the commission’s evaluation and previously subpoenaed mental health records from the Alabama Department of Corrections. At the hearing, defense counsel requested a continuance in order to evaluate all the new material, and asked for the assistance of someone with expertise in psychological matters to review the findings. The trial court denied defense counsel’s requests. At the conclusion of the hearing, the court sentenced McWilliams to death.

On appeal, McWilliams argued that the trial court denied him the right to meaningful expert assistance guarantee by Ake. The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed McWilliams’ conviction and sentence, holding that Dr. Goff’s examination satisfied Ake’s requirements. The State Supreme Court affirmed, and McWilliams failed to obtain state postconviction relief. On federal habeas review, a Magistrate Judge also found that the Goff examination satisfied Ake and, therefore, that the State Court of Criminal Appeals’ decision was not contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law. See 28 U. S. C. 2254(d)(1). Adopting the Magistrate Judge’s report and recommendation, the District Court denied relief. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed.


1. Ake clearly established that when certain threshold criteria are met, the state must provide a defendant with access to a mental health expert who is sufficiently available to the defense and independent from the prosecution to effectively “conduct an appropriate examination and assist in evaluation, preparation, and presentation of the defense.” 470 U. S., at 83. The Alabama courts’ determination that McWilliams received all the assistance to which Ake entitled him was contrary to, or an unreasonable application of, clearly established federal law. Pp. 11–16.

(a) Three preliminary issues require resolution. First, the conditions that trigger Ake’s application are present. McWilliams is and was an “indigent defendant,” 470 U. S., at 70, and his “mental condition” was both “relevant to . . . the punishment he might suffer,” id., at 80, and “seriously in question,” id., at 70. Second, this Court rejects Alabama’s claim the State was relieved of its Ake obligations because McWilliams received brief assistance from a volunteer psychologist at the University of Alabama. Even if the episodic help of an outside volunteer could satisfy Ake, the State does not refer to any specific record facts that indicate that the volunteer psychologist was available to the defense at the judicial sentencing proceeding. Third, contrary to Alabama’s suggestion, the record indicates that McWilliams did not get all the mental health assistance that he requested. Rather, he asked for additional help at the judicial sentencing hearing, but was rebuffed. Pp. 11–13.

(b) This Court does not have to decide whether Ake requires a State to provide an indigent defendant with a qualified mental health expert retained specifically for the defense team. That is because Alabama did not meet even Ake’s most basic requirements in this case. Ake requires more than just an examination. It requires that the State provide the defense with “access to a competent psychiatrist who will conduct an appropriate [1] examination and assist in [2] evaluation, [3] preparation, and [4] presentation of the defense.” 470 U. S., at 83. Even assuming that Alabama met the examination requirement, it did not meet any of the other three. No expert helped the defense evaluate the Goff report or McWilliams’ extensive medical records and translate these data into a legal strategy. No expert helped the defense prepare and present arguments that might, e.g., have explained that McWilliams’ purported malingering was not necessarily inconsistent with mental illness. No expert helped the defense prepare direct or cross-examination of any witnesses, or testified at the judicial sentencing hearing. Since Alabama’s provision of mental health assistance fell so dramatically short of Ake’s requirements, the Alabama courts’ decision affirming McWilliams’ sentence was “contrary to, or involved an unreasonable application of, clearly established Federal law.” 28 U. S. C. 2254(d)(1). Pp. 13–16.

2. The Eleventh Circuit should determine on remand whether the Alabama courts’ error had the “substantial and injurious effect or influence” required to warrant a grant of habeas relief, Davis v. Ayala, 576 U. S. ___, ___, specifically considering whether access to the type of meaningful assistance in evaluating, preparing, and presenting the defense that Ake requires could have made a difference. P. 16.

634 Fed. Appx. 698, reversed and remanded.

Breyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Kennedy, Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan, JJ., joined. Alito, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Roberts, C. J., and Thomas and Gorsuch, JJ., joined.