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Federal Courts
University of Connecticut School of Law
Dailey, Anne C.

Federal Courts Dailey Spring 2015

I. Justiciability

A. Def: Determining Whether a Case is Amenable to Judicial Resolution

1. Originates in Art. III “cases” and “controversies” requirement

2. Cluster of non-constitutionally derived doctrines that define the scope of the judicial power.

B. Justiciability Doctrines

1. Restrictions on What Matters a Court Can Handle

a. Prohibition Against Advisory Opinions—court can resolve disputes only b/t actual parties with opposing positions; can’t issue prospective rulings

· Separation of powers issue

· Potential problems: (1) prospective pronouncement of a rule; (2) opinion based on alternate holdings

· Declaratory judgments & Advisory opinions

o Aetna v. Haworth (1937): under “case or controversy” clause in Art. III, held that Declaratory Judgment Act did not unconstitutionally authorize advisory opinions, in cases where adverse litigants present court w/ concrete case allowing for “an immediate and definitive determination” of litigants’ legal rights.

o R: court must determine that, without a declaratory judgment suit to settle parties’ dispute, one of parties would likely sue for damages or an injunction.

· “Hypothetical jurisdiction” = advisory opinion

o Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Environment (1998): a court is required to determine standing as a threshold issue, instead of hypothetically assuming standing and proceeding directly to the merits.

a. Political Question Doctrine

· Prohibits a federal court from intruding into matters best resolved by the politically accountable branches of the federal government.

· E.g., Marbury: case did not turn on a political question, since delivery of Marbury’s commission was a ministerial function required by law—the Secretary of State had no discretion to refuse to deliver the commission once it had been signed and sealed.

2. Restriction on Who May Bring a Lawsuit

· Marbury v. Madison (1803)—established federal judiciary’s power of judicial review of legislation for compliance with the Constitution, because reasoned that court duty-bound to review statute’s constitutionality when necessary to resolve a case. Jurisdictional holding: Congress cannot expand S.Ct.’s original jx.

· Cannon of Constitutional Avoidance—Ashwander v. Tennessee Valley Authority (1936): court should exercise power of judicial review only when truly necessary, and avoidance of unconstitutional statutory construction if statute can be fairly construed in a way that would not violate the Constitution.

o Variation 1: decide whether, under one interpretation, the statute would be unconstitution; if so, decide if there is any reasonable alternative interpretation that would not render the statute unconstitutional—if one exists, go with the constitutional reading.

o Variation 2: avoid even deciding whether a proposed interpretation would render statute unconstitutional; look for a reasonable construction that would avoid this issue.

II. Congressional Control Over Jurisdiction

A. Sources

U.S. Constitution, Art. III

Section 1.

The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office.

Section 2.

The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;–to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;–to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;–to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;–to controversies between two or more states;–between a state and citizens of another state;–between citizens of different states;–between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.

In all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, and those in which a state shall be party, the Supreme Court shall have original jurisdiction. In all the other cases before mentioned, the Supreme Court shall have appellate jurisdiction, both as to law and fact, with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.

The trial of all crimes, except in cases of impeachment, shall be by jury; and such trial shall be held in the state where the said crimes shall have been committed; but when not committed within any state, the trial shall be at such place or places as the Congress may by law have

ve of the estate of a decedent shall be deemed to be a citizen only of the same State as the decedent, and the legal representative of an infant or incompetent shall be deemed to be a citizen only of the same State as the infant or incompetent.

(d)(1) In this subsection–

(A) the term “class” means all of the class members in a class action;

(B) the term “class action” means any civil action filed under rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or similar State statute or rule of judicial procedure authorizing an action to be brought by 1 or more representative persons as a class action;

(C) the term “class certification order” means an order issued by a court approving the treatment of some or all aspects of a civil action as a class action; and

(D) the term “class members” means the persons (named or unnamed) who fall within the definition of the proposed or certified class in a class action.

(2) The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action in which the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $5,000,000, exclusive of interest and costs, and is a class action in which–

(A) any member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State different from any defendant;

(B) any member of a class of plaintiffs is a foreign state or a citizen or subject of a foreign state and any defendant is a citizen of a State; or

(C) any member of a class of plaintiffs is a citizen of a State and any defendant is a foreign state or a citizen or subject of a foreign state.

(3) A district court may, in the interests of justice and looking at the totality of the circumstances, decline to exercise jurisdiction under paragraph (2) over a class action in which greater than one-third but less than two-thirds of the members of all proposed plaintiff classes in the aggregate and the primary defendants are citizens of the State in which the action was originally filed based on consideration of–