Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Source of federal jurisdiction: Constitution, §2 of Article III.
  • Federal courts have limited jurisdiction.
  • Rule 8(a) requires each complaint to state basis of jurisdiction.
  • The courts only have the power if Congress allows it.
    • Except the Supreme Court, which has powers explicitly allocated to it by the Constitution.
    • Disputes arising under federal law, involving ambassadors, about admiralty, the U.S. is a party, between 2 states, between a state and a citizen of another state, diversity, land grants, between foreign state and U.S. citizens.
  • Relation to state courts: Most federal court jurisdiction is concurrent with state courts, with the exception of admiralty and other statutorily mandated areas of fed ct’s exclusive jurisdiction.
  • Policy behind federal jurisdiction:
    • 1. need for uniform interpretation of federal laws
    • 2. protect federal government’s right to conduct foreign policy
    • 3. protect diverse parties from bias of state courts
    • 4. promote interstate commerce
    • 5. create a forum that is insulated from political pressure
  • Reasons for seeking federal court rather than state:
    • Shorter waiting time for trial
    • Δ may get a more sympathetic hearing from judge or jury in federal court (depends!)
    • Federal judges are more neutral due to lifetime tenure
    • More hospitable to claims and arguments based on federal law
    • Perceived higher competence of judiciary
Note, under Rule 12(h)(3) the right to object to subject matter jurisdiction is never waived, in fact, it must be raised sua sponte if noticed by court.
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