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Civil Procedure I
St. Johns University School of Law
Sovern, Jeffery

Civil Procedure: Fall 2015 – Professor Sovern

Table of Contents

Justiciability & Standing
Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Personal Jurisdiction

Erie Doctrine
Pleadings and Motions

Class Actions

Res Judicata

Justiciability and Standing

Justiciability – whether a case is suitable for resolution by a court

Adversary system – based on the concept that parties themselves are better advocates for their best cases than a neutral party (i.e.: judge) because the best possible arguments lead to the best possible decisions.

Proceeds on assumption that if both parties want it badly enough, they’ll give it their all
Con: Personal biases of advocates can interfere; unequal quality of representation

Mootness – Article 3 §2 of Constitution

Case and Controversy Requirement

Must have a case or controversy, otherwise the matter is moot
Possible exceptions:

Pregnancy cases, because litigation may take longer than the term of the pregnancy
The reason for the claim ceases to exist

However, if the party stops acting in a bad manner, might not declare a case moot because the negative action could begin again

Want to ensure that parties have a stake in the outcome to ensure that the adversarial system functions

If a case is moot, would parties care who wins? Devote resources to making the best arguments? Would it lead to the best result/ultimate law?

Standing – does the plaintiff have sufficient personal stake in the outcome of the case to justify entering into the claim?

Cudahy, Eisenhower, Frummer

Article III Test

Did the plaintiff suffer an actual or threatened injury?
Can the injury be fairly traced to the defendant?
Would a favorable federal court decision likely redress the injury?

Are the prudential considerations satisfied?

Plaintiff cannot assert a third party’s rights

Exception: Griswold v. Connecticut – Doctor allowed to assert rights of his patients by arguing that contraceptives could not constitutionally be made a crime, because otherwise he might have been convicted of being an accessory to criminal conduct of contraceptive use.

Contraceptives violated state law
Doctor was giving advice regarding contraceptives to his patients

No abstract questions of general public significance which amount to generalized grievances

P.O.W.E.R. – parties failed to prove injury to themselves, rather, were asserting a generalized grievance

Complaint must fall within the Zone of interests to be protected or regulated by the statute or constitutional guarantee

For case to be heard in court: Justiciability, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Personal Jurisdiction, Venue, Notice

Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Subject Matter Jurisdiction (SMJ) is about a court having power over the case/whether a case can be heard in state or federal court.

State courts can hear any kind of case

General Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Dispute between citizen of Australia and a citizen of Chile over an accident in China. North Dakota state court can hear the case, because state court has general subject matter jurisdiction over any case. There may be other jurisdictional issues.

Federal courts have limited subject matter jurisdiction (limited by the Constitution)

Federal courts have subject matter jurisdiction under limited circumstances

Diversity of citizenship
Federal question


May not be conferred by consent

If parties do not meet one of these requirements, parties cannot go to federal court even if the parties want to

Objection based on its absence can be raised at any time
Judgment tendered without SMJ is invalid and can be collaterally attacked

Collaterally attacked – attack on the judgment, typically in a later case, where a party will argue that the judgment is not enforceable

SMJ must be pleaded and proved

Question: Can the case be heard in state or federal court?


Diversity Jurisdiction
Federal Question
Supplemental Jurisdiction
Removal Jurisdiction

Diversity Jurisdiction (USC §1332, pg. 486)

Justifications for Diversity Jurisdiction:

To prevent prejudice of state courts toward out of state individuals

To invoke diversity jurisdiction, there are two requirements:

§1332(a)(1) Complete Diversity Requirement

Rule: There is no diversity if any plaintiff is a citizen of the same state as any defendant

There can be multiple plaintiffs with the same citizenship in a claim against multiple defendants with the same citizenship
Strawbridge v. Curtiss – plaintiffs from MA, defendants from MA and VT. A case MUST have COMPLETE diversity.

Citizenship of a Person

For a US citizen, you are a citizen of the state in which you are domiciled

Domicile (Milliken v. Meyer):

ber of unrelated or related claims)

Two different theories for the same damages

Co-plaintiffs where one plaintiff meets the $75,000 requirement, but the others do not (ExxonMobil)

Multiple parties on either side

Federal Question Jurisdiction §1331

Not enough that the complaint raises a federal issue. The claim itself must arise under federal law

§1332 – Well Pleaded Complaint Rule (Mottley Rule)

Look only at the complaint, and in the complaint, you ignore everything other than the claim itself

Claim must arise under federal law

Is the plaintiff enforcing a federal right?

If yes, it is a federal question case that can get into court under §1331
If not, then the case is not a federal question case and it cannot go to federal court under §1331

Can still go to federal court under diversity

Mottley – passengers on a railroad were injured. Sued RR. Settled case for a lifetime pass on railroad. Have been riding free on railroad for years. Congress then passes a law (federal law) that says that railroads cannot honor free passes. RR says there is new federal statute that bars free passes. Mottley sues RR, claiming breach of K & new federal statute does not apply

Skelly Rule – Federal statute I clearly a federal issue, BUT case cannot go to federal court under federal question because the CLAIM does not arise under federal law. How do we know?

Who is suing for affirmative relief? – The Mottleys
Would this arise under federal law? – NO. The federal statute specifically gives the Mottley’s no right. They’re not suing to enforce the federal law, they’re saying the federal law doesn’t apply.