Is federal diversity jurisdiction case specific or claim specific? The complete-diversity rule makes clear that, when a diversity defect is noted in a putative diversity action, the court lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over that action as a whole. But does the court’s jurisdiction nevertheless extend to claims between diverse parties, such that the case continues if the nondiverse spoiler is dismissed?

We engage this persistent and unsettled question by identifying and exploring two possible answers, each based on a distinct theory of subject-matter jurisdiction that boasts doctrinal support. The first we denote “joint jurisdiction”—an all-or-nothing theory—under which a diversity defect contaminates the whole case and deprives the court of jurisdiction over claims between diverse parties too. The second we denote “several jurisdiction”—a claim-by-claim theory—under which the court lacks jurisdiction over claims between nondiverse parties but always had, and continues to have, jurisdiction over claims between diverse parties.

We then offer a way to reconcile these seemingly incompatible theories and precedent: shifting the time of jurisdictional assessment from the time of filing in federal court to the time of dismissal of the jurisdictional spoiler. We also discuss how that solution potentially creates new tensions, particularly regarding the notion that a court without subject-matter jurisdiction over an action may nonetheless render a binding adjudication of claims within that action. Finally, we explain how the application of other jurisdictional authorizations—including the jurisdiction-to-determine-jurisdiction doctrine and the jurisdictional-resequencing doctrine—might alleviate tensions created by our time-shifting proposal.

Included in

Law Commons