Civil Procedure Class Notes 10/14/03


We left off with Mottley.  The language “arising under” that we find in the Constitution and in the statute can have different meanings.  In particular, we read the “Well-Pleaded Complaint Rule” into the statute.


All that this means is that the Mottleys tried to file their case in federal court under federal question subject matter jurisdiction.  The court resolves the issue, but it goes to the Supreme Court which says that the lower court that heard the case had no jurisdiction to hear it in the first place.  Then the Mottleys go to Kentucky state court and eventually get appealed up to the Supreme Court again, where they lose on the merits.  This is not very efficient.


Mottley is an example of federal “arising under” jurisdiction.


Diversity jurisdiction


This is the oldest form of federal subject matter jurisdiction.  It was included in the 1789 Judicial Act that actually established the lower federal courts.  The roots of diversity jurisdiction are old and deep, though it is one of the most controversial subjects the federal courts deal with.


The Mottleys were in Kentucky.  Let’s say the railroad was incorporated in New York.  We think that the Mottleys could look to the diversity statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1332, to try to get their case properly into federal court.


We have citizens from different states.  We have a controversy that exceeds $75,000 in value.  We also have the problem of corporate citizenship.  Where does the company live?


Do we have $75,000 at issue?  Say the Mottleys were injured today.  Say they got free airfare on American Airlines for life.  Does this necessarily exceed $75,000?  Not exactly.  What are we going to do?  We could gather some evidence for how much this is worth.


The simple matter is that your petition will simply allege that the matter in controversy is greater than $75,000.  Make the defendants argue against jurisdiction.  Your claim will be accepted on its face unless the complaint plainly contradicts this.


What about the “citizens of different States” requirement?  The Mottleys live in Kentucky.  The corporation can be said to be a citizen of New York as well as wherever its principal place of business is.  Unfortunately, it turns out that the railroad is a citizen of Kentucky.  We are foreclosed from going the “diversity route” on the facts of Mottley: our corporate citizen “lives” in Kentucky as well.


On the other hand, we have…


Mas v. Perry


This is one of Fairman’s absolute favorite cases.


Jean-Paul Mas is a citizen of France.  His wife, Judy, is a citizen of Mississippi.  They are both grad students at LSU.  They get married in Mississippi.  They go back to LSU and get an apartment from “Peeping Tom” Perry.  He has installed two-way mirrors in the apartment.  They find out and they sue him.  Perry challenges subject matter jurisdiction on appeal.


Let’s say only Jean-Paul sued Perry.  It’s “France v. Louisiana”.  Is this case okay under diversity jurisdiction?  We go to § 1332(a), and zero in on sub-section (2), which allows jurisdiction when you have a “citizen of a State” and a “citizen of a foreign state”.


Notice that § 1332(a) tells us that an alien who has been admitted as a permanent resident is considered a citizen of the state where they are domiciled.


So if we have Jean-Paul v. Perry, we have a good lawsuit that can be heard in federal court.  Let’s add Judy.  What’s wrong with that?


The court says there is some confusion over her citizenship.  She might be a citizen of France because her husband is a citizen of France.  She might also be a citizen of Louisiana or Mississippi.  The court gives us reasons why some of these will work and some of them won’t.


Why does it matter where she’s from?  If she’s from Louisiana, then we don’t have diversity jurisdiction.  Why not?  You wouldn’t have complete diversity of the parties.  There’s a rule!  It’s called…


The Rule of Complete Diversity


No party on one side may be a citizen of the same state as any party on the other side.


The Rule of Complete Diversity is to diversity jurisdiction as the Well-Pleaded Complaint Rule is to federal question jurisdiction.  It is a rule that comes from the interpretation of the relevant federal law (§ 1332) rather than from the Constitution.


This rule comes from the case of Strawbridge v. Curtis.  Yeazell doesn’t make us read this dumb, tedious case.


This is important, because if this rule is statutory rather than constitutional, that means that Congress can provide jurisdiction in the federal courts for something less than complete diversity.  They have done so!  They passed the Federal Interpleader Act, which only requires “minimal diversity”, meaning diversity between at least two of the claimants.  Remember that all the Constitution says is “citizens of different States”.  This has been interpreted differently constitutionally than it has been interpreted through the statute.


What could Congress do if it wanted?  It could allow federal jurisdiction over cases with minimal diversity.  Fairman says that’s probably the opposite direction from the way federal judges want to see this develop.


It makes a huge difference whether Judy is from Louisiana or not.  If she is, the decision of the court will be vacated.  As long as she is a citizen of someplace else, the judgment will stand.


How do we figure out her citizenship?  The court says that we determine citizenship by determining domicile.


Domicile, in turns, means (1) residence plus (2) intent to remain.  Where are you?  Do you intend to stay there?


What’s wrong with Louisiana?  Where is Judy actually living?  She’s in Park Ridge, Illinois.  She’s not in Louisiana.  That doesn’t mean that we can stop there.  What do we know about Judy that tells us that even if she were living in Louisiana, she still would not be a citizen of Louisiana?  She’s a student!  She’s going to be at LSU for a set period of time!  Most grad students graduate and go out into the world, someplace else.  You don’t know where exactly.  So, Louisiana’s gone.


What about France?  The court states the doctrine that “wives take the citizenship of their husbands”.  The court mentions that if she were a citizen of France, she would be neither a citizen of any state nor an alien and therefore, she would be SOL[1].  Furthermore, by statute, she is not deemed to have lost her U.S. citizenship by virtue of marrying a foreigner.


What about Mississippi?  Could we consider Judy to be a citizen of Mississippi?  How does that make sense?  It’s sort of like the Sherlock Holmes approach.  Once you’ve eliminated all other possibilities, then what remains—no matter how ridiculous—must be the answer.  Is this lawsuit going to be okay for diversity jurisdiction?  Sure!!!


In Gordon, the court weighed certain factors for citizenship in Pennsylvania versus factors for citizenship in Idaho.  The court finds that the college student is a citizen of the “college town” rather than the “home town”.  How do you distinguish these cases?  Why didn’t the Fifth Circuit have to follow Gordon?  Well, they are in different circuits, so the Fifth Circuit doesn’t care what goes on in district court in Pennsylvania.  But why would the test come out differently?


Could the court be “peeking” at the merits?  In both cases, the courts made decisions that allow plaintiffs to go forward with lawsuits when the alternative was no alternative at all due to statute of limitations.  Also, the plaintiffs in both cases were highly sympathetic.


There are different facts in the two cases, and an inquiry into domicile is essentially a factual inquiry.


Subject matter jurisdiction is a “time bomb” inside your litigation!


Tomorrow, we will conclude by looking at the statute a little more.  Then we will get into a complicated issue in diversity jurisdiction that the Circuits are split on when we look at Saadeh.


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[1] Spectacularly Out of Luck