United States District Court, N.D. California, San Francisco Division
ORDER DENYING DEFAULT JUDGMENT & CLOSING CASE RE:
ECF NO. 52
BEELER United States Magistrate Judge.
internet-defamation case is before the court on the
plaintiffs‘ renewed motion for default
judgment. This is the plaintiffs‘ fourth such
motion. The court denied their first three motions because
the plaintiffs had not shown that this court could
constitutionally exercise personal jurisdiction over the
defendants, who appear to be residents of
Brazil. The court has also expressed doubt about
whether the plaintiffs could establish either of their claims
(for libel and false light) against defendant
Peres. Under Eitel v. McCool, 782 F.2d
1470, 1471-72 (9th Cir. 1986), the latter failing would
hamper the plaintiffs‘ bid to obtain a default judgment
against Ms. Peres. The court can decide this motion without
oral argument. See Civil L.R. § 7-1(b).
court again denies the plaintiffs‘ motion. The
court‘s previous analysis stands - and, with the
additional comments made below, the court again adopts its
earlier reasoning here. (The court assumes that the reader is
familiar with those prior orders.) The plaintiffs still have
not shown that the defendants "purposefully
directed" their conduct toward this forum within the
meaning of governing jurisdictional doctrine. More
specifically, they have not adequately shown that the
defendants "expressly aimed" their conduct toward a
known resident of California within the meaning of the
"effects test" derived from Calder v.
Jones, 465 U.S. 783 (1984). If the facts do show
"purposeful direction, " they do so only minimally;
the court still concludes that asserting personal
jurisdiction over the defendants "would not comport with
fair play and substantial justice." See
Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797,
801-02 (9th Cir. 2004) (quoting Int'l Shoe Co. v.
Washington, 326 U.S. 310, 316 (1945)). This is
especially true with respect to defendant Peres. For that
ultimate reason the court would still deny the
- considering the "merits of [their] substantive
claims" and the "sufficiency of the complaint,
" Eitel, 782 F.2d at 1471-72 - the plaintiffs
still seem unlikely to prove libel or false light against Ms.
Peres. This too cuts against granting a default judgment
against her. See id.
plaintiffs‘ latest motion puts a new emphasis on the
defendants‘ knowledge. Specifically, the plaintiffs
again point out that, as their former employee, defendant
Yakovlev would likely know that Mr. Vachani resides in
California. It is therefore reasonable (the plaintiffs say)
to conclude both that Mr. Yakovlev "expressly
aimed" his online gripes at someone whom he knew to be a
California resident, and that he knew that he would likely
cause harm in this state.
court has already mostly addressed this issue. It has found
Mr. Yakovlev‘s inferred knowledge too lonely and slim a
reed on which to hang transnational personal jurisdiction. In
their latest motion, though, the plaintiffs point with new
clarity and force to a Ninth Circuit decision that they say
decides the issue in their favor. That case is
CollegeSource, Inc. v. AcademyOne, Inc., 653 F.3d
1066 (9th Cir. 2011). The Ninth Circuit there wrote:
"[T]he ‗express aiming‘ requirement [of
Calder] . . . is satisfied when ‗the defendant
is alleged to have engaged in wrongful conduct targeted at a
plaintiff whom the defendant knows to be a resident of
the forum state.‘" Id. at 1077
(emphasis added) (quoting Bancroft & Masters, Inc. v.
Augusta Nat'l, Inc., 223 F.3d 1082, 1087 (9th Cir.
2000)). That, in the plaintiffs‘ view, seals
the jurisdictional analysis.
court understands the plaintiffs‘ argument. The court
nevertheless concludes that it cannot apply
CollegeSource so broadly.
other appellate and district-court decisions in this circuit
have read CollegeSource, and have applied the
"express aiming" test, more restrictively. These
cases cast doubt on whether CollegeSource enunciated
quite so broad a rule. A court in this district has thus
Despite [its] seemingly broad formulation, . . .
CollegeSource did not give the defendant's knowledge
of the plaintiff's residence dispositive weight, but
rather concluded that [defendant] Academy One - a company
that competed with CollegeSource "in the market to
assist students and educational institutions with the college
transfer process, " [CollegeSource] at *1 - had
expressly aimed its conduct at the forum due to its alleged
individual targeting of CollegeSource's California
business and the fact that "CollegeSource and
AcademyOne were direct competitors in a relatively
small industry." Id. at *9.
Lang v. Morris, 823 F.Supp.2d 966, 973 (N.D. Cal.
2011) (emphases added). "Thus, " the Lang
court concluded, "the full analysis in
CollegeSource" is "entirely
consistent" with earlier Ninth Circuit decisions that
had taken a more stringent approach to "express
aiming." Lang, 823 F.Supp.2d at 972-73
(discussing Love v. Associated Newspapers, Ltd., 611
F.3d 601 (9th Cir. 2010) and Brayton Purcell LLP v.
Recordon & Recordon, 606 F.3d 1124 (9th Cir. 2010)).
This court basically agrees with this aspect of
CollegeSource is factually different from this case.
In CollegeSource there were more factual pillars on
which to rest a firm decision that the defendant had
expressly aimed at a known California resident. Thus, in
distinguishing CollegeSource, a sister district
usefully described CollegeSource's operative
In CollegeSource, one website
offering college referral services copied material from a
[California] competitor‘s website and posted it on its
own site. Prior to posting the material, the defendant made
phone calls and sent emails and letters to the plaintiff
seeking to purchase the copied material. The court found that
these communications were a part of the defendant‘s
efforts to obtain and make commercial use of the
plaintiff‘s copyrighted material ...