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Jurisdictional Fellow Travelers

From the seed of the Moore case, courts extended ancillary jurisdiction to many claims asserted by defending parties that bore a “logical relationship” to the main claim. Third-party claims like that in the figure on p. 311 were consistently held ancillary, since they are by definition “logically related” to the main claim: The third-party plaintiff can only recover from the third-party defendant if the plaintiff recovers from the third-party plaintiff. Fed. R. Civ. P. 14(a)(1). On a similar rationale, ancillary jurisdiction was extended to crossclaims under Rule 13(g), and to intervention as of right under Rule 24(a). But the same logic dictated denial of ancillary jurisdiction for permissive counterclaims. By definition, such claims arose from different events (see Rule 13(b)) and therefore lacked a close logical relation to the main claim. See, generally, Friedenthal, Kane, and Miller (4th ed.) at §2.12, pp. 70-71.


All of this was complex enough, but the Court multiplied these woes in three major cases by introducing a more sophisticated analysis of the limits of such supplemental jurisdiction. In Aldinger v. Howard, 427 U.S. 1 (1976), Owen Equipment & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365 (1978), and Finley v. United States, 490 U.S. 545 (1989), the court reiterated the basic principle that federal jurisdiction is not only limited by the Constitution but also must be conveyed to the federal district courts by Congress in a jurisdictional statute. (Recall Judge Sirica’s well-phrased comments on the “Article III storehouse,” supra, p. 69.)

In Aldinger, the plaintiff was dismissed from her county job and brought suit against Howard and other individual defendants under a federal statute, 42 U.S.C. §1983. She also asserted a state law claim based on the same incident, against Spokane County. The case looked like this:

This was an attempt to exercise “pendent party” jurisdiction, that is, to add a jurisdictionally insufficient claim against one defendant to a jurisdictionally proper claim against the other. The claim against Howard was proper, since Aldinger asserted a right to relief under §1983, a federal statute. However, the claim against the county was based on state law and, thus, not jurisdictionally proper in itself. Aldinger at 5. The Court concluded that even though the claim could be viewed as part of a single constitutional case under the first part of Gibbs, allowing a state law claim against the county would be inconsistent with the apparent intent of Congress to bar federal civil rights claims under §1983 against counties.[2] Thus, there was no statutory grant of jurisdiction over the pendent party claim.

[2]. At the time Aldinger was decided, counties were not considered “persons” subject to suit under §1983. Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 187-191 (1961). After Aldinger was decided, however, the Supreme Court overruled this aspect of Monroe. See Monell v. Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658, 690-691 (1978).

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