A. The Available Courts
1. Courts of Original Jurisdiction
a) Cases are brought and tried
b) General Jurisdiction
(1) Organized into districts comprising mostly several counties
(2) These courts are competent to grant every kind of relief
(3) Plaintiff must have claim for more than a specified amount
c) Inferior Jurisdiction
(1) Municipal courts (resembles district courts except claims are less important
(2) Justice-of-the-peace courts (hear very minor matters)
(3) Specialized tribunals (ex: traffic courts)
2. Federal Court (United States District Courts)
a) Limited jurisdiction (Const. Art. III)
b) Subject-matter of the US District Courts:
(1) Cases that involve federal law
(2) Cases that do not involve federal law
(a) Diversity of citizenship (parties are citizens of different states or one is a citizen of a foreign country)
(b) Amount of controversy (more than $75,000)
3. State Court
a) General jurisdiction
(1) Can hear any kind of case
B. How To Choose
a) Subject matter jurisdiction: Is this court competent to hear this claim?
b) Personal Jurisdiction: can this court compel this defendant to appear and to suffer judgment?
c) Jurisdiction over property: can this court compel this defendant to suffer the loss of some attached property?
a) Among competent courts, which one is the “most convenient and efficient forum for resolution of a case”?
II. SUBJECT MATTER JURISDICTION OF THE FEDERAL COURTS
A. Basic Principles
1. Determine whether a particular court has the competence to hear a particular type of case
(1) State Court ONLY
(2) Federal Court ONLY
(3) Either Federal or State Court (i.e. “concurrent jurisdiction”)
**About 98% of the time there is concurrent jurisdiction
2. General Jurisdiction v. Limited Jurisdiction
a) General Jurisdiction – assume the court can hear the case; defendant must show the court cannot hear the case
b) Limited Jurisdiction – assume the court cannot hear the case; plaintiff must show the court can hear the case
3. SMJ cannot be waived
4. Types of SMJ
a) Federal Q
b) Diversity of Citizenship + Amount in Controversy ($75K)
B. Federal Question Jurisdiction
1. Constitutional Authority:
a) Article III – jurisdictional power
(1) A case “arises under” art. III when federal jurisdiction is a potential ingredient.
(1) A case “arises under” §1331 only if it is in the complaint of the plaintiff
(a) “Well pleaded complaint” – The plaintiff cannot anticipate a federal defense to create federal question jurisdiction
(b) Louisville v. Mottley
(i) Mottley sued a railroad company for injury due to negligence, and received free tickets for life as a result. The RR honored this for 36 years and then stopped renewing the passes. This was due to an act of congress 6 months before prohibiting the giving of free passes and free transportation. Supreme Court found lack of Federal jurisdiction. Rule: a suit arises under the Constitution and laws of the US only when the π’s statement of his own cause of action shows that it is based upon those laws. It was very likely that during the course of litigation a question under the Constitution would arise, but the π’s original cause of action did not arise under the Constitution.
(2) Other case law:
(a) Osborn – The decision allows congress to confer fed. Juris. “whenever there exists in the background some fed. Proposition that might be challenged, despite the likelihood of actual presentation of such a fed. Q.
(3) 3 “arising under” tests of §1331
(a) Holmes Test
(i) Example: TB Harms Co. v. Eliscu – state court claim for breach of contract. (copyright issue) Does not meet Holmes test (even though a claim is created by state law, a case
domiciled in Kansas is a citizen of Kansas, but a US citizen domiciled in England is not a foreign citizen.
d) Citizenship of corporations
(1) Unlike a natural person, a corporation can be a citizen of more than one state (§1331c)
(b) Principle place of business (a corporation can have more than one)
(i) Nerve center
(ii) Corporate activities
(iii) Hybrid – total activities
e) Citizenship of an unincorporated association
(1) Determined by the citizenship of the members (partners)
f) Citizenship of class actions
(1) Citizenship of all the named plaintiffs
6. Exceptions to diversity jurisdiction
a) Probate matters
b) Domestic relations
7. Amount in Controversy
a) How much?
(1) $75,000 – exclusive of fees and costs
b) What effect does it have?
(1) Makes it harder for people with small claims to get into federal court
c) How to calculate?
(1) Each claimant has to satisfy the $75,000 requirement, the two claims cannot be combined
(2) It’s ok for one plaintiff to aggregate 2 unrelated claims against a defendant to satisfy the $75,000 requirement
(3) You can’t “double count” theories of liability (if someone runs into your boat, it’s not ok to sue them for negligence and also for intentionally running into your boat)
d) Standard: a case should be dismissed only if there is a legal certainty that the plaintiff cannot recover in excess of $75,000
Aggregation: aggregation of a single plaintiff’s claims is ok. Aggregation of multiple plaintiffs’ claims is not. Each plaintiff must allege