December 16, 2015 Articles

Hypothetical Statutory Jurisdiction

While it can no doubt be an efficient way to dispose of many cases, it can also lead to highly inefficient outcomes.

By Joshua S. Stillman

As students and practitioners, we are taught that the federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, that subject matter limitations are inviolable, and that federal courts must assure themselves of their subject matter jurisdiction prior to issuing any ruling on a case’s merits. E.g., Ex parte McCardle, 74 U.S. 506, 514 (1868). However, the actual practice in the federal courts is substantially more complex than the common wisdom might suggest. For instance, must a federal court always assure itself of its subject matter jurisdiction before dismissing on the merits, even if the jurisdictional issue is tricky, yet it is abundantly clear that the plaintiff—the party invoking federal jurisdiction—will lose on the merits regardless?

Premium Content For:
  • Litigation Section
Join - Now