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Civil Procedure I
St. Thomas University, Minneapolis School of Law
Sisk, Gregory C.

Choice of forum
I. Subject matter jurisdiction (power of court to hear the type of case)
a. Definition
i. Not geographic – that’s personal jurisdiction
ii. It is assumed that state courts are always available – they are often termed as having general subject matter jurisdiction. No matter what the claim is, whether a federal or state-created cause of action, it can be heard in state court.
iii. Federal courts, however, have limited jurisdiction. States have general powers, which are limited by federal constraints. Federal courts, however, only have power granted by the constitution, and no others. States have every power but what’s denied, while federal courts have only what’s specifically granted – if it’s not granted, it’s denied.
iv. State courts are creating law by common law
v. Article III of the U.S. Constitution authorizes Congress to create lower federal courts and to determine the subject matter jurisdiction of those courts. Congress by statute then determines what lower federal courts to create and what the subject matter jurisdiction of those courts may be. Congress can’t create a court and give it more power than Article III – only less.
b. Federal Question Jurisdiction
i. 28 U.S.C. 1331 (p. 1113 in green book): The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treates of the United States.
ii. Louisville & Nashville RR v. Mottley (211 U.S. 149 (1908)
1. Facts: Mottleys injured in a railroad accident, got a lifetime pass for transport on the line. Congress later revoked all lifetime passes in an effort to curb RR’s bribing power, and the RR refused to honor the Mottley’s pass.
2. Mottleys sued for specific performance on the contract (state cause of action), railroad cited the federal legislation as a defense – but that doesn’t make the claim federal. The CLAIM must be based on a federal question – the federal issue can’t come up in the defense. Just because the claim can lead to a federal question, doesn’t take it out of state court. Even though there was a federal question, the original suit did not arise under the Constitution. Even if you know that the defendant is likely to interject a federal law issue, that does not create federal jurisdiction under section 1331.
iii. Well-pleaded complaint rule
1. Does the federal law question appear on the face of the

U.S. citizen, which the court rejected. Instead, found she was resident of MS.
iii. What does it mean to be a citizen of a state?
1. The party is a U.S. Citizen or permanent alien
2. The party is a citizen of (domiciled in) a state
a. Residence-in-fact – where you actually live.
b. Intent to make location your home for an indefinite period of time
c. Can be shown by things such as home ownership, employment, car license/registration, voter registration, etc.
d. Your domicile lingers on until you get a new one, even if you’ve left your domicile and have no intention of returning.
e. Crucial date of figuring domicile is when the lawsuit is filed.
3. In the case of a foreign jurisdiction, does the country recognize the person as a citizen?
iv. A U.S. citizen must be a party to the claim.
v. Amount in controversy
Determined by “good faith” test – accept plaintiff’s allegation until there is a “legal certainty” to the contrary.