Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Mims v. Arrow Financial Services LLC (covered earlier here), which considers whether federal-question jurisdiction exists under 28 U. S. C. §1331 for claims brought against telemarketers under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA). The provision of the TCPA that created a private cause of action refers to actions that would be brought in state court. See 47 U. S. C. §227(b)(3) (“A person or entity may, if otherwise permitted by the laws or rules of court of a State, bring in an appropriate court of that State . . . an action based on a violation of this subsection . . . .”).
In an opinion by Justice Ginsburg, the Supreme Court holds that federal-question jurisdiction is proper under §1331. From the opinion [Slip Op. at 2]:
The question presented is whether Congress’ provision for private actions to enforce the TCPA renders state courts the exclusive arbiters of such actions. We have long recognized that “[a] suit arises under the law that creates the cause of action.” American Well Works Co. v. Layne & Bowler Co., 241 U. S. 257, 260 (1916). Beyond doubt, the TCPA is a federal law that both creates the claim Mims has brought and supplies the substantive rules that will govern the case. We find no convincing reason to read into the TCPA’s permissive grant of jurisdiction to state courts any barrier to the U. S. district courts’ exercise of the general federal-question jurisdiction they have possessed since 1875.
In particular, Justice Ginsburg notes [Slip Op. at 11]: “Title 47 U. S. C. §227(b)(3) does not state that a private plaintiff may bring an action under the TCPA ‘only’ in state court, or ‘exclusively’ in state court.”