Will John Roberts Overturn John Marshall’s “Regrettable” Opinion in Strawbridge v. Curtis?

January 23rd, 2013

Chuck Cooper urges the Supreme Court to overturn an opinion written by John Marshall himself, Strawbridge v. Curtis, which imposed the “complete diversity” rule.

The 1806 ruling in Strawbridge v. Curtiss established what would become known as the “complete diversity” rule — meaning lawsuits may not be removed from state to federal court if any opposing parties are from the same state. As a result, plaintiffs’ attorneys have been able to evade federal court jurisdiction for the “home cooking” of state courts by the simple expedient of naming an in-state defendant along with the out-of-state targets of the lawsuit.

According to an opinion written by Marshall’s colleagues several years after his death, the chief justice “repeatedly expressed regret” that Strawbridge was wrongly decided. Although the Supreme Court has subsequently clarified that the Strawbridge rule is not required by the Constitution, the decision has never been overruled.

Strawbridge was wrong as a matter of first impression, but something tells me John Roberts won’t vote to overturn a Marshall case.

Federal diversity jurisdiction isn’t an archaic vestige of a bygone age. The original intent for the federal judiciary’s role is as sound today as it was more than two centuries ago. Evading federal jurisdiction to obtain crushing settlements and judgments in plaintiff-friendly state courts causes real harm to national and international businesses and results in lost global competitiveness for our nation and lost jobs for our citizens.

The U.S. Supreme Court has a chance in Standard Fire to begin the process of correcting Marshall’s “regrettable” 1806 mistake and restoring constitutional guarantees for out-of-state defendants.

Op-Eds about federal jurisdiction make me happy.