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Federal Courts
Southern Illinois University School of Law
Beyler, Keith H.

FEDERAL COURTS OUTLINE
 
PART ONE: FEDERAL COURT’S POWER TO HEAR CASES:
I.       “JUDICIAL POWER” OVER “CASES AND CONTROVERSIES”:
A. FEDERAL COURTS ARE COURTS OF LIMITED JURISDICTION:
1.      Article III: federal courts get their authority from Article III, §1, which is interpreted narrowly by courts:
a.      Congress can’t expand jurisdiction (Hodgson): can’t give lower federal courts jurisdiction that isn’t in Article 3 (like over aliens).
b.      Congress may limit jurisdiction (Sheldon): Congress can give lower federal courts less than Art. III power (like no diversity for assignees).
c.       Parties can’t confer jurisdiction (Page): parties can’t confer jurisdiction that isn’t in Article III (like by consenting to diversity).
d.      Limitations on suits involving corporations (Knee): no SMJ if P is citizen of state where D corporation has principal place of business.
2.      Statute: jurisdiction must fit in statute after meeting Article III.
B. “CASE OR CONTROVERSY” REQUIREMENT:
1.      No Collusive Suits: courts can’t hear cases where parties pretend to be adversaries.
a.      Limitation-test and reform cases: aren’t necessarily collusive suits.
1)      Test cases: if parties’ interests are adverse, a framed case may be heard by courts (like black woman riding bus to test segregation).
2)      Institutional reform cases: are permitted because D is representing his interests and the state as a whole.
2.      Non-Binding Decisions: courts can’t just make recommendations.
3.      Political Question Doctrine: questions federal courts refuse to adjudicate.
a.      Criteria for determining if political question exists (Baker v. Carr):
1)      Is there a “textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department?”
2)      Is there a “lack of judicially discernible and manageable standards for resolving” the dispute?
3)      Is the case impossible to decide “without an initial policy determination of a kind clearly for nonjudicial determination?”
4)      Is the case impossible to decide without “expressing lack of the respect due coordinate branches of government?”
5)      Is there an “unusual need for unquestioning adherence to a political decision already made?”
6)      Is there potential for “embarrassment from multifarious pronouncements by various departments on one question.”
b.      Case-by-case application: political question is determined case-by-case.
1)      Cases where a political question has been found:
a)      Trespass (Luther v. Borden): where P sues D for trespass and D claims he went there to arrest P for insurrection.
b)     Reconstruction Acts (Pacific States Telephone & Telegraph): suit to enjoin execution of Reconstruction Acts.
c)      Impeachment (Nixon v. U.S.): impeached judge’s challenge to Senate allowing a committee to take evidence and hear testimony.
d)     Foreign Treaties (Goldwater): Congress’s challenge to President’s unilateral treaty with Taiwan.
2)      Cases where a political question HAS NOT been found:
a)      State Reapportionment (Baker v. Carr): attempt to get state to reapportion on equal protection grounds.
b)     Congressional refusal to seat representative (Power): refusal to seat because of improprieties isn’t a political question.
c)      Federal Reapportionment (U.S. Department of Commerce): state’s challenge to census apportionment because it lost districts.
4.      Standing: litigant must have a personal stake in the outcome or controversy.
a.      Constitutional requirements: based on “case or controversy”:
1)      Injury in fact (Lujan): P must show some injury in fact.
a)      Injury may be small: no requirement that injury be of a size.
b)     Injury need not be economic: asthetic injury will suffice.
c)      Equal Protection Clause: being treated unequally is injury but if you want to be admitted, must show you would’ve gotten in.
2)      Fairly traceable (Arlington Heights): must be a substantial probability that injury is causally connected to the challenged act.
3)      Redressable: P must show remedy sought will alleviate injury.
b.      Prudential requirements: federal court may refuse to hear if:
1)      No generalized grievances (Craig v. Boren): injury must affect P in particular and not just an injury shared generally by the population.
2)      Only your own rights: can’t assert the rights of someone else.
a)      3rd party standing (Craig v. Boren): allowed where it’s difficult for 3rd party to assert her rights, or there’s a close relationship between P and 3rd party.
3)      Zone of interest: P must show he is “arguably within the zone of interests to be protected or regulated by the statute or constitutional guarantee in question.”
c.       Taxpayer standing (Frothingham v. Mellon): federal T’s have no standing to challenge illegal federal expenditures.
1)      State and municipal T (Everson): local T’s challenging busing of parochial schools under Establishment Clause granted cert.
2)      Federal T (Flast v. Cohen): standing allowed in Establishment Clause (freedom of religion) violations provided that (all):
a)      Expenditure is an exercise of taxing and spending power (rather than an incidental expenditure).
b)     Expenditure must be prohibited by some specific constitutional limitation.
c)      Must be spending of funds and not transfer of property (Valley Forge): denied standing where real property was transferred to religious school.
3)      Citizen standing (Schlesinger): standing to sue as a “citizen” (not T) has consistently been denied by federal courts.
d.      Organization Standing: has standing to rep

’s power to assign cases to adjunct courts: same test.
1)      Constitutionality-balancing test (Commodity Futures): factors to determine if improperly classified as non-Article III:
a)      Extent to which the “essential attributes of judicial power” are reserved to Article III courts.
b)     Extent non-Article III forum exercises the range of jurisdiction and powers normally vested only in Article III courts.
c)      Origins and importance of the right to be adjudicated.
d)     Concerns that drove Congress to depart with Article III requirements.
2)      Difference: adjunct’s decision may be reviewed by an Article III court, which may save assignment from being unconstitutional.
3)      Approved adjunct courts: bankruptcy courts and federal magistrate judges (hear minor criminal matters and some civil matters and are reviewed by Article III courts, usually the district courts).
 
II.    FEDERAL QUESTION JURISDICTION:
A. CONSTITUTIONAL BASIS:
1.      Article III: judicial power extends to cases arising under the Constitution, Laws of the U.S., and Treaties made, or shall be made under their authority.
2.      Scope of constitutional authorization: very broad:
a.      Ingredient test (Osborn): right created by federal law must be an “original ingredient” of P’s claim for relief and P’s right or immunity must be supported or defeated by a construction of federal law.
1)      Broad reading of Article III (Planters’ Bank of Georgia): possibility that a question of federal law might arise is sufficient.
B. STATUTORY BASIS:
1.      General original federal question jurisdiction (§1331): district courts have original jurisdiction over all civil actions arising under the constitution, laws, or treatises of the U.S. (almost exactly like Article III).
a.      Narrower than constitutional grant (Verlinden): statutory grant gives less than full extent of federal question jurisdiction authorized by Art. III.
2.      Scope of statutory original federal question jurisdiction: several tests:
a.      Well-pleaded complaint rule (Louisville & Nashville R.R.): federal question must appear in well-pleaded complaint.
1)      Well-pleaded: can’t put things in complaint that should be in the answer or reply to “sneak in” to federal court.