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Essay Question from this Year's CivPro Exam

Answer to Essay Question 8 in this Year's CivPro Exam

I'll post answers to the essay questions as I grade them. I started with the last:

Essay Question 8. (10 points)

P1 (a domiciliary of New York) and P2 (a domiciliary of California), joining as co-plaintiffs under Fed. R. Civ. P. 20, sue D (a domiciliary of New Jersey) under state battery law in federal court in California, asking for $100,000 each for damages from D due to a brawl between P1, P2, and D in California. P1 also joins an action against P2 for state law battery concerning P1’s damages from P2 in the brawl, asking for $20,000 (assume this is the actual amount in controversy). Does P1’s action against P2 have supplemental jurisdiction? If it does have supplemental jurisdiction, should it not (given the purposes for which the supplemental jurisdiction statute was drafted)? If it does not have supplemental jurisdiction, should it (given the purposes for which the supplemental jurisdiction statute was drafted)?

 

The following, in italics, would be an ideal answer:

P1’s crossclaim does not have supplemental jurisdiction. Although part of the same constitutional case or controversy as P1’s and P2’s actions against D, it falls under one of the exceptions for supplemental jurisdiction in 28 U.S.C. § 1367(b), because P1 & P2 v. D is a diversity case and P1’s action against P2 is a claim by a plaintiff against someone made a party under Rule 20.

P1’s crossclaim should not have supplemental jurisdiction. Assuming that we can speak of congressional purposes at all, Congress’s purpose in passing the supplemental jurisdiction statute was solely to abrogate Finley and Aldinger (that is, to allow pendent party jurisdiction in certain non-diversity cases). It still wanted to prohibit supplemental jurisdiction in cases where plaintiffs could use it as an end-run around the requirements for diversity. If P1’s action against P2 had supplemental jurisdiction, that would be an end-run around the jurisdictional minimum requirement. Assume P1 and P2 wanted to litigate in federal court but could not do so because the amount in controversy was not satisfied. They could overcome that problem by finding a diverse defendant to sue as co-plaintiffs where the amount in controversy was satisfied, suing that defendant in federal court, and then litigating their crossclaim.

 

Almost everyone recognized that the crossclaim did not have supplemental jurisdiction. Things were more problematic when we got to the issue of whether it should have supplemental jurisdiction. Remember that the question asked you to answer this question in the light of the purposes for which the supplemental jurisdiction was drafted. (This assumes, of course, that speaking of congressional intent makes sense.) Is denying supplemental jurisdiction to P1’s action against P2 yet another an example of the statute being misdrafted? Or did Congress draft the statute right here?

Many of you said that the crossclaim should have supplemental jurisdiction because the purpose of the supplemental jurisdiction statute was efficiency and it would be efficient to litigate P1’s crossclaim with the other actions. If the purpose of the supplemental jurisdiction statute were solely efficiency, there would be supplemental jurisdiction for any action that was part of the same constitutional case or controversy as an action that had original jurisdiction in federal court. But that’s false. The statute clearly is intended to keep plaintiffs from using supplemental jurisdiction as an end run around the diversity requirements, despite any efficiency that might result from the plaintiffs’ maneuvers. Consider the following: P, D1 and D2 are in a brawl. P (a domiciliary of NY) sues D1 (a domiciliary of CA) and D2 (a domiciliary of CA) in federal court. P’s action against D1 is above the jurisdictional minimum, but his action against D2 is not. The statute does not give supplemental jurisdiction to P’s action against D2 even though it would be efficient to do so. Why? If it did, P could use the statute to make an end-run around the jurisdictional minimum requirement.

Others said that the purpose of the statute is to keep plaintiffs from using supplemental jurisdiction as an end-run around the complete diversity requirement – not the amount in controversy requirement. Once again, our example of P v. D1 & D2 above shows that’s not true. Or consider the following: P1, P2, and D get into a brawl. P1 (a domiciliary of NY) and P2 (a domiciliary of NY) sue D (a domiciliary of CA) in federal court. P1’s action against D is above the jurisdictional minimum, but P2’s is not. In Allapattah the Supreme Court held that the statute gives supplemental jurisdiction to P2’s action against D, even though this result appeared to be against Congress’s intent. In class, I repeatedly spoke of this as an example of the statute being misdrafted, because now co-plaintiffs can use supplemental jurisdiction to allow one of them to evade the jurisdictional minimum requirement.

Some recognized that the statute was intended to keep plaintiffs from using supplemental jurisdiction to evade the requirements for diversity, but you said that the scenario I describe in my ideal answer was too implausible. It is unlikely that diverse co-plaintiffs would seek to circumvent the jurisdictional minimum requirement by suing a diverse defendant against whom they had action above the jurisdictional minimum in federal court, and then litigating their action as a crossclaim. I accepted this answer as well, since it showed an understanding of the purposes of the supplemental jurisdiction statute.

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