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December 2009

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This article is in the news archives --- for current news go to the Third Branch News.


House Bill Would Clarify Jurisdiction and Venue Issues

A second defendant was added to a civil case in state court, months after the initial filing. The new defendant wants to remove the case to federal court—but the existing law is unclear on the timing of such removal.

H.R. 4113, the Federal Courts Jurisdiction and Venue Clarification Act of 2009, would clear up that question of law, as well as many other areas of confusion. The bill, recently introduced by Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, and Representative Howard Coble (R-NC), ranking member on the Courts and Competition Policy Subcommittee, will make it easier to identify where—in state or federal court—certain actions should proceed. The legislation also will help reduce wasteful litigation over jurisdictional issues.

The Judicial Conference Committee on Federal-State Jurisdiction identified recurring problems encountered by litigants and judges in applying certain jurisdictional and venue statutes. Following years of study, and consideration of the American Law Institute’s Federal Judicial Code Revision Project (2004), the Committee crafted solutions that were subsequently endorsed by the Judicial Conference and transmitted to Congress.

Provisions in H.R. 4113 include those that would:

  • Clarify that diversity jurisdiction does not exist in suits between a citizen of a state and a permanent resident alien in that state.
  • Allow the amount in controversy to be adjusted every five years to keep pace with inflation when needed.
  • Ensure that when a federal question claim is removed and otherwise nonremovable state law claims are attached to it, the federal question claim will proceed in federal court and the nonremovable state law claims will be severed and remanded to state court.
  • Facilitate the use of stipulations by allowing plaintiffs, when they wish to remain in state court, to specify that the case involves less than the statutory minimum amount in controversy.
  • Clarify the provisions governing timeliness of removal by giving each defendant 30 days after service to file a notice of removal, while allowing any earlier-served defendants to consent to the removal by the later-served defendant.
  • Permit removal of a case after one year if equitable considerations so warrant.
  • Clarify that a person is deemed to reside in the judicial district in which that person is domiciled.
  • Provide that unincorporated associations will be treated the same as incorporated associations for determining venue, so that they also will be regarded as residents of any district in which they are subject to personal jurisdiction.
  • Provide that a civil action may be brought in any division of a judicial district in which that case can be properly pursued, and that the court will have discretion to transfer a case to another division within the district upon its own motion or upon the request of a party.
  • Delete the limitation on transfer of a case that it be to a district where it might have been brought, thereby broadening the availability of convenient locations for litigants.