Professor Stella Elias
Civil Procedure is the study of dispute resolution through the process of a valid adjudication before an institution of the American judiciary.
Valid Adjudication: A bi-polar action, conducted by party representation, based on a claim of right, before a passive and neutral decision maker who is authorized with jurisdiction to hear the matter in a proceeding conducted under due process of law, which legitimates the judgment.
Due Process: Pursuant to the 5th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution, no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without the due process of law.
Goldberg v. Kelly established that this requires a trial hearing with notice and opportunity to be heard.
Mathews v. Eldridge established that the level of procedure is determined by balancing the private interest, state's interest, and risk of error.
Sources of civil procedure:
Article III and Amendments V and XIV of the Constitution
Statutes (especially US Code Title 28)
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, provided for by the Rules Enabling Act of 1934
Federal common law rules of procedure
US treaties governing transnational procedural questions
State and local rules
PHASE 1: BEFORE FILING THE LAWSUIT
PHASE 1A: CHOOSING THE PROPER FORUM
PHASE 1A(1): SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION
Unlike state courts, federal courts are courts of limited subject matter jurisdiction. They are only able to hear cases or controversies:
arising under the federal Constitution
arising under federal statutes
arising under American treaty obligations
affecting ambassadors or diplomats
to which America is a party
between two or more states
between a state and citizens of another state
between citizens of different states (if complete diversity between Ps and Ds)
between citizens of the same state pertaining to land grants from different states
between a state or its citizens and foreign states, citizens, or subjects
US Constitution, Art. III, §2
SCOTUS has original jurisdiction over suits involving ambassadors or between two states.
SCOTUS has appellate jurisdiction over other cases within the federal judiciary's limited discretion.
PHASE 1A(1)(a): FEDERAL QUESTION JURISDICTION
Question to ask: Can P sue D in state or federal court?
28 USC §1331: Federal question
The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws or treaties of the United States.
Case: Capron v. Van Noorden (Supreme Court of the United States, 1804)
Summary: P Capron (victim) sued D Van Noorden (perpetrator) for trespass on the case in the circuit court of North Carolina. D claimed the court had no SMJ because P failed to state that the parties were diverse in his complaint.
Issue: Whether parties may consent to SMJ in a federal court if it does not otherwise exist?
Holding & Rule: No, the court must establish whether it has SMJ and the consent of the parties is irrelevant. SMJ is a structural limitation that cannot be waived, consented to, or excused. If it is missing, the judgment by the federal court is void.
Case: Osborn v. United States (Supreme Court of the United States, 1824)
Summary: P Osborn (OH tax enforcer) sued D United States (federal court voiding OH tax) claiming that the federal court, which had forbidden OH from taxing the federal bank branches within its borders and then ordered Osborn to return the tax revenue he had forcibly collected anyway, lacked SMJ over the case.
Issue: Whether the federal judiciary had SMJ to forbid OH from taxing the federal bank?
Holding & Rule: Yes, the statute chartering the bank authorized to sue and be sued in federal courts (clearly granting them jurisdiction), and OH alleged that the bank violated the federal Constitution, which falls under the “arising under” language of Art. III, §2. Justice Marshall proposed an “original ingredient” test—if an act of Congress is the first ingredient in the case, the federal court will retain SMJ even though other legal questions may arise.
Case: Louisville and Nashville R. Co. v. Motley (Supreme Court of the United States, 1908)
Summary: P Motley (injured railroad passengers) sued D Louisville and Nashville R. Co. (injurious railroad company) in equity for the free railroad passes for life they had been promised in exchange for releasing their claims for damages stemming from an injury on D's train. D stopped renewing the passes after a 1906 act of Congress forbade the giving of free railroad passes.
Issue: Whether the federal judiciary had SMJ over this case?
Holding & Rule: No, there is no diversity of citizenship because P and D are citizens of Kentucky, and it is not a federal question because P is not asserting a federally protected right. It is not enough that D's anticipated defense may involve federal laws, or even that P plans to argue that this anticipated defense is unconstitutional. The well-pleaded complaint rule establishes that P's statement of his own cause of action must show that it is based on federal laws or the federal Constitution for federal courts to have SMJ. The origin of the suit must be a federal question.
PHASE 1A(1)(b): DIVERSITY JURISDICTION & AMOUNT IN CONTROVERSY
28 USC §1332: Diversity of citizenship….
a. The district courts shall have original jurisdiction of all civil actions where the matter in controversy exceeds the sum or value of $75,000…between:
◦ 1. citizens of different states
◦ 2. citizens of a state and citizens or subjects of a foreign state (except lawfully permanent residents, ex: green card holders)
◦ 3. citizens of different states and in which citizens or subjects of a foreign state are additional parties
◦ 4. a foreign state as plaintiff and citizens of a state or of different states.
Strawbridge v. Curtis (1806) rule: There must be complete diversity between plaintiffs and defendants—regardless of the number of litigants, if even one plaintiff is from the same state as even one defendant, there is not diversity of citizenship.
Policy arguments for keeping diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction:
Avoiding discrimination against out-of-state residents by jurors with provincial attitudes
Providing stability for investors
Solving problems of national significance in areas traditionally governed by state law
Ensuring the privileges and immunities clause of the Constitution is respected (Art. IV, §2)
Institutional superiority of federal courts (explained by Burt Neuborne in “The Myth of Parity”)
Higher standards of justice spurred by competition between state and federal courts
Policy arguments for restricting diversity-of-citizenship jurisdiction
Holding & Rule: Yes, the federal claim had substance sufficient to confer SMJ on the court and the state and federal claims derived from a common nucleus of operative fact. Supplemental jurisdiction is awarded at the discretion of the courts, and need not be exercised every time it could be. If it turns out that the state claim predominates (the case is really about the state claim), the federal court can dismiss it without prejudice so the state courts can hear it, and rule only on the federal claim.
Supplemental jurisdiction test: If the state and federal claims derive from a common nucleus of operative fact and are such that P would ordinarily be expected to try them all in one judicial proceeding, there is power in the federal district courts to hear the whole.
28 USC §1337(b): Further qualification of supplemental jurisdiction over “claims that involve the joinder or intervention of additional parties”
In any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction founded solely on section 1332, the district courts shall not have supplemental jurisdiction under 1337(a) over
◦ claims by plaintiffs against persons made parties under Rule 14, 19, 20, or 24
◦ or over claims by persons proposed to be joined as plaintiffs under Rule 19
◦ or seeking to intervene as plaintiffs under Rule 24
when exercising supplemental jurisdiction over such claims would be inconsistent with the jurisdictional requirements of 1332.
Case: Aldinger v. Howard (Supreme Court of the United States, 1976)
Summary: P Aldinger (ex-state employee) sued D Howard (state official) under federal statute 42 USC 1983 for deprivation of rights. Since the statute only allowed suits against officials, rather than the county itself, P also sued the county under a state law claim via pendent jurisdiction.
Issue: Whether the federal court had jurisdiction over a pendent state law claim against the county?
Holding & Rule: No, this would improperly join an entirely different defendant on a claim which has no independent basis of federal jurisdiction.
Case: Owen Equipment and Erection Co. v. Kroger (Supreme Court of the United States, 1978)
Summary: P Kroger (widow of electrocuted victim) sues D Owen Equipment and Erection Co. (crane owner) for the wrongful death of her husband. P, an IA citizen, originally sued D, Omaha Public Power District, a NE citizen, and D filed a Rule 14(a) third-party complaint against Owen. Kroger amended her complaint, believing Owen was a NE citizen, but it was actually an IA citizen. OPPD was granted summary judgment, leaving Owen as the sole D.
Issue: Whether the federal court had jurisdiction over the case because of the doctrine of ancillary jurisdiction?