Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Brad Shannon has published Reconciling Subject-Matter Jurisdiction, 46 Hofstra L. Rev. 913 (2018). From the conclusion:
Current subject-matter jurisdiction practice, though well-entrenched, seems upon closer examination to be somewhat indefensible. Changes should be made. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8 should be amended to eliminate the pleading of subject-matter jurisdiction. This should help obviate the need to respond to allegations of this nature. Moreover, Rules 12 and 60 should be amended to prevent the assertion of this defense beyond the pleading stage (except in the default judgment context). Such a move would significantly (and appropriately) limit the ability to raise this defense on direct or collateral review. It would, in short, help “secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action.” Perhaps more importantly, the practice relating to federal subject-matter jurisdiction would be reconciled with that relating to other “jurisdictional” concepts such as personal jurisdiction and venue, as well as state subject-matter jurisdiction practice, which has avoided many of these problems without incident.
Alas, sound reasoning might not be enough to get the Rules Committee to proceed on some of these matters. Tradition is a powerful thing. Moreover, the fact that the amendments proposed here would, in actuality, have little effect on post-pleading practice, though seemingly a virtue, might actually be a deterrent. Hopefully it will be enough that these amendments would promote simplicity, uniformity, predictability, and avoid unnecessary waste. Exceptions might be unavoidable regardless of which way one goes on these issues, and cases probably will continue to be decided suboptimally. The questions for now relate to baseline presumptions and how best to minimize errors and increase the efficiency of the federal courts.