Burnham v. Superior Court of California

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Burnham v. Superior Court of California
Date decided


Petitioner Dennis Burnham was married to Francie Burnham in 1976. In 1987, the two decided to separate. Mrs. Burnham moved to California with their two kids after they decided to divorce on grounds of "irreconcilable differences." Dennis filed for divorce on grounds of "desertion" in New Jersey. Mrs. Burnham filed for divorce in California state court. Later that month, Dennis was in California on business and went to visit the kids. He took the oldest to San Francisco for the weekend. Upon his return, he was served with California court summons.

Procedural History

Petitioner made a special appearance in the California Superior Court, moving to quash the service of process on the ground that the court lacked personal jurisdiction. Superior court denied the motion. California Court of Appeal denied mandamus relief.


Whether due process requires a similar connection between the litigation and the defendant's contacts with the State in cases where the defendant is physically present in the State at the time process is served upon him.


In-state service of process is sufficient to uphold jurisdiction.




Jurisdiction based on physical presence alone constitutes due process because it is one of the continuing traditions of our legal system that define the due process standard of "traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice."