Yeazell, pp. 215-228: Federal Question Jurisdiction


First, Stevie gives us a bit of history: until a little after the Civil War, Congress declined to give the lower federal courts general jurisdiction over “federal questions”.  Instead, Congress drafted statutes that gave federal courts jurisdiction in bits and pieces.  This changed in 1875.


Today, 28 U.S.C. § 1331 gives federal district courts jurisdiction over cases “arising under” the Constitution, statutes, or treaties of the federal government.  The problem is that nobody quite knows what “arising under” means.


Steve asks us to consider two examples:


1.     The worker will claim that federal courts have jurisdiction because the case “arises under” the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.  However, the employer may claim that though the statute applies to this employment relationship, the dispute does not arise from that Act because the problem is that the worker has overstated his hours.

2.     The newspaper will clearly argue that this is a First Amendment case that belongs in federal court.  The plaintiff may argue, however, that the case does not arise from the First Amendment, but rather from libel law.  The First Amendment issue is a defense, and thus is sort of reactive rather than proactive.  I think this would be pretty solidly in federal court, though.


Case: Louisville & Nashville Railroad v. Mottley


Note: Challenging Federal Subject Matter Jurisdiction


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