What do we mean by "extraterritorial" application?

Today's post will ask a theoretical question - what exactly do we mean when we say a provision of the Constitution applies extraterritorially?  In some cases, like Verdugo-Urquidez, it seems fairly obvious - the search took place outside the United States.  As the Court held, the violation occurs once the search or seizure is accomplished.  If that happens outside the U.S., then we are asking if the Fourth Amendment applies extraterritorially.

But what about the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause, or the Self-Incrimination Clause?  The Court was just as clear in Verdugo-Urquidez that a violation of the Self-Incrimination Clause only occurs at trial, when the coerced testimony is introduced.  However, that description does not appear to track the Court's jurisprudence surrounding the Self-Incrimination Clause.  As Professor Mark Godsey persuasively argued in a 2003 law review article, the Supreme Court in 1986's Colorado v. Connelly, shifted the focus of the Fifth Amendment's protections from introduction at trial to the conduct of police during the pretrial interrogation.  479 U.S. 157 (1986).  Given this, if a suspect is interrogated in Romania, may he challenge his confession as involuntary once he's returned to the United States for trial?

The Due Process Clause can be even trickier.  One can argue that it does not even come into play until one enters court.  If this is the case, then almost every application of the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment will not be extraterritorial, since there are very few U.S. courts which sit outside the United States.  (Two notable exceptions are courts martial and military commissions). 

We see this interaction in cases dealing with personal jurisdiction.  The Court has a long history of cases in which it examines whether the Due Process Clause is offended when a foreign company is haled into a state court to face tort liability for actions in a state.  There, the Court asks whether the foreign corporation has "minimum contacts" with the forum to justify applying local laws to its actions.  Interestingly, the Court has never once asked whether such a foreign corporation has "substantial connections" to the United States such that it can claim the protections of the Due Process Clause in the first instance.

There are two potential explanations for this seeming inconsistency: 1) the Court assumes that the Due Process Clause applies because we are in U.S. courts, thus there is no question of extraterritoriality; or 2) the Due Process Clause is a constraint on Government power, a la Black's opinion in Reid, and thus it serves to limit what the Government may do regardless of who is on the other side.  Sadly, the Court has never addressed the question head on.  But some lower courts have.  In those cases, they seem to indicate that the former explanation is the correct one.  They have held that the mere presence of the corporation through their lawyer in Court provides them the connection necessary to assert the Due Process Clause's protections.

It is a fairly unremarkable claim that the Due Process Clause applies in U.S. courts, regardless of who is seeking to enforce it.  Given that, it appears that courts are of the opinion, without directly saying so, that when a foreign corporation challenges the application of a state's long arm statute under the Due Process Clause, they are not asking the Court to apply the Clause outside the United States.

These questions are more than academic.  Professor Godsey concludes that under Supreme Court precedent, if the Connelly view of confessions controls, aliens interrogated abroad would not be able to claim the protections of the Fifth Amendment, contra to the Court's statement in Verdugo-Urquidez.  As for other applications of Due Process, it would help if the Court would take the next opportunity to clarify on what basis foreign corporations claim the protections of Due Process is.  For now, there appears to be a bit of tension between the Court's personal jurisdiction cases, which require only "minimum contacts" and its extraterritorial cases, which require "substantial connections."  Answering the question of what we mean by "extraterritorial" may help resolve this tension.

Further Reading:

Mark A. Godsey, "The New Frontier of Constitutional Confession Law -- The International Arena: Exploring the Admissibility of Confessions Taken By U.S. Investigators Abroad," 91 Geo. L. J. 851 (April 2003).

First Investment Corp. of the Marshall Islands v. Fujian Mawei Shipbuilding, Ltd. et al, 703 F.3d 742 (5th Cir. 2012).