Quill Corp. v. North Dakota, 504 U.S. 298 (1992)

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certiorari to the supreme court of north dakota

No. 91-194. Argued January 22, 1992—Decided May 26, 1992

Respondent North Dakota, through its Tax Commissioner, filed an action in state court to require petitioner Quill Corporation—an out-of-state mail-order house with neither outlets nor sales representatives in the State—to collect and pay a use tax on goods purchased for use in the State. The trial court ruled in Quill's favor. It found the case indistinguishable from National Bellas Hess, Inc. v. Department of Revenue of Ill., 386 U. S. 753, which, in holding that a similar Illinois statute violated the Fourteenth Amendment's Due Process Clause and created an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce, concluded that a "seller whose only connection with customers in the State is by common carrier or the . . . mail" lacked the requisite minimum contacts with the State. Id., at 758. The State Supreme Court reversed, concluding, inter alia, that, pursuant to Complete Auto Transit, Inc. v. Brady, 430 U. S. 274, and its progeny, the Commerce Clause no longer mandated the sort of physical-presence nexus suggested in Bellas Hess; and that, with respect to the Due Process Clause, cases following Bellas Hess had not construed minimum contacts to require physical presence within a State as a prerequisite to the legitimate exercise of state power.

Held: 1. The Due Process Clause does not bar enforcement of the State's use tax against Quill. This Court's due process jurisprudence has evolved substantially since Bellas Hess, abandoning formalistic tests focused on a defendant's presence within a State in favor of a more flexible inquiry into whether a defendant's contacts with the forum made it reasonable, in the context of the federal system of Government, to require it to defend the suit in that State. See Shaffer v. Heitner, 433 U. S. 186, 212. Thus, to the extent that this Court's decisions have indicated that the Clause requires a physical presence in a State, they are overruled. In this case, Quill has purposefully directed its activities at North Dakota residents, the magnitude of those contacts are more than sufficient for due process purposes, and the tax is related to the benefits Quill receives from access to the State. Pp. 305-308. 2. The State's enforcement of the use tax against Quill places an unconstitutional burden on interstate commerce. Pp. 309-319.

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