Tuesday, April 21, 2020
There were some interesting jurisdictional issues in yesterday’s Supreme Court decision in Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian.
First, the Court ruled that the Montana Supreme Court’s ruling was a “final judgment” that the Supreme Court had jurisdiction to review under 28 U.S.C. § 1257, even though the Montana court’s ruling allowed the case to proceed to trial. Chief Justice Roberts’ majority opinion reasoned that the Montana Supreme Court had “exercised review in this case through a writ of supervisory control” and that “[u]nder Montana law, a supervisory writ proceeding is a self-contained case, not an interlocutory appeal.”
Second, the Supreme Court found that the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) did not forbid state courts from exercising jurisdiction over actions based on state law. CERCLA “deprives state courts of jurisdiction over claims brought under the Act. But it does not displace state court jurisdiction over claims brought under other sources of law.” Chief Justice Roberts reasoned:
Section 113(b) of the Act provides that “the United States district courts shall have exclusive original jurisdiction over all controversies arising under this chapter,” so state courts lack jurisdiction over such actions. 42 U. S. C. §9613(b). This case, however, does not “arise under” the Act. The use of “arising under” in §113(b) echoes Congress’s more familiar use of that phrase in granting federal courts jurisdiction over “all civil actions arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.” 28 U. S. C. §1331. In the mine run of cases, “[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).4
Footnote 4 clarifies:
There is a “special and small category of cases” that originate in state law yet still arise under federal law for purposes of federal question jurisdiction. Gunn v. Minton, 568 U. S. 251, 258 (2013) (internal quotation marks omitted). To qualify for this narrow exception, a state law claim must “necessarily raise” a federal issue, among other requirements. Ibid. No element of the landowners’ state common law claims necessarily raises a federal issue. Atlantic Richfield raises the Act as an affirmative defense, but “[f]ederal jurisdiction cannot be predicated on an actual or anticipated defense.” Vaden v. Discover Bank, 556 U. S. 49, 60 (2009).