prev | next
ArtIII.S2.C1.11.6 Supplemental Jurisdiction

Article III, Section 2, Clause 1:

The judicial Power shall extend to all Cases, in Law and Equity, arising under this Constitution, the Laws of the United States, and Treaties made, or which shall be made, under their Authority;—to all Cases affecting Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls;—to all Cases of admiralty and maritime Jurisdiction; to Controversies to which the United States shall be a Party;— to Controversies between two or more States; between a State and Citizens of another State, between Citizens of different States,—between Citizens of the same State claiming Lands under Grants of different States, and between a State, or the Citizens thereof, and foreign States, Citizens or Subjects.

A single case may simultaneously involve claims that give rise to federal court jurisdiction and claims that, standing alone, would not. The federal courts may often consider both sets of claims together under the doctrine of supplemental jurisdiction. The doctrine is grounded in the broad interpretation of Article III jurisdiction articulated in Osborn v. Bank of the United States, where Chief Justice John Marshall explained that the Constitution grants the federal courts jurisdiction when a federal question “forms an ingredient of the original cause, . . . although other questions of fact or of law may be involved in it.” 1 Supreme Court cases and federal legislation identify circumstances in which federal courts may exercise supplemental jurisdiction to hear claims over which they would not otherwise have jurisdiction, including state law claims between non-diverse parties.2

One form of supplemental jurisdiction, also called ancillary jurisdiction, pendent jurisdiction, or pendent claim jurisdiction, exists when a claim that would not otherwise be subject to federal court jurisdiction arises from the same set of facts as a claim that is subject to federal court jurisdiction.3 Some sources use the term pendent jurisdiction to refer to cases where related federal and non-federal claims appear in a plaintiff’s complaint.4 By contrast, ancillary jurisdiction may refer to cases where a complaint raises one or more claims subject to federal court jurisdiction, then a defendant responds by raising compulsory counterclaims that would not independently meet the jurisdictional requirements.5

The doctrine of ancillary jurisdiction has its roots in the 1861 case Freeman v. Howe.6 Freeman involved federal court proceedings related to the seizure of rail cars. The original parties were from different states, and the case proceeded in federal court pursuant to diversity jurisdiction. Other parties who did not satisfy the requirements for diversity jurisdiction then sought to intervene and assert rights to the seized property. The Supreme Court held that the federal courts could hear claims from the non-diverse parties, stating that an equitable claim like those at issue “is not an original suit, but ancillary and dependent, supplementary merely to the original suit, . . . and is maintained without reference to the citizenship or residence of the parties.” 7

By contrast, in Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co., the Court held that the federal courts lacked ancillary jurisdiction to hear state law breach of contract claims related to a settlement agreement that resolved earlier federal court litigation.8 Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion identified two purposes of ancillary jurisdiction: “to permit disposition by a single court of claims that are, in varying respects and degrees, factually interdependent,” or “to enable a court to function successfully, that is, to manage its proceedings, vindicate its authority, and effectuate its decrees.” 9 The Court held that federal jurisdiction over the breach of contract claims would not serve those purposes.

With respect to pendent jurisdiction over state and federal claims contained in a single complaint, the Supreme Court in Siler v. Louisville & Nashville R.R. considered whether federal courts could exercise jurisdiction over a case involving federal constitutional claims and claims under state law.10 The court explained that the constitutional claims gave rise to federal court jurisdiction, and thereafter the federal court could “decide all the question[s] in the case, even though it decided the Federal questions adversely to the party raising them,” and even if it declined to decide the federal questions and instead resolved the case on state law grounds.11

The Supreme Court articulated a test for when courts should exercise pendent jurisdiction in the 1933 case Hurn v. Oursler.12 In that case, the Court distinguished between “a case where two distinct grounds in support of a single cause of action are alleged, one only of which presents a federal question” —which was subject to ancillary jurisdiction—and “a case where two separate and distinct causes of action are alleged, one only of which is federal in character” —which was not.13

Lower federal courts had difficulty applying the rule in Hurn, and several decades later the Court articulated a new test in United Mine Workers v. Gibbs.14 Stating that courts applying Hurn had been “unnecessarily grudging” in hearing pendent claims, the Court explained:

Pendent jurisdiction, in the sense of judicial power, exists whenever there is [a federal question claim], and the relationship between that claim and the state claim permits the conclusion that the entire action before the court comprises but one constitutional “case.” 15

To warrant the exercise of pendent jurisdiction, “[t]he state and federal claims must derive from a common nucleus of operative fact.” 16 But if the federal issues are substantial and plaintiff’s federal and state claims “are such that he would ordinarily be expected to try them all in one judicial proceeding, then . . . there is power in federal courts to hear the whole.” 17 Although the Gibbs Court held that the “judicial power” under the Constitution allowed for pendent jurisdiction in a large class of cases, the Court also emphasized that federal courts could properly decline to exercise that power over state claims based on “considerations of judicial economy, convenience and fairness to litigants,” as well to foster comity between federal and state courts.18

Pendent jurisdiction does not exist if a plaintiff’s federal claim is insubstantial or patently without merit.19 The Supreme Court has also held that when the Eleventh Amendment bars a federal claim against state officials, federal courts may not exercise jurisdiction over pendent state law claims.20 If a federal claim is substantial enough to confer jurisdiction but is dismissed before trial, or if a pendent state law claim substantially predominates, a federal court may be justified in dismissing the state claim.21 However, there is no requirement that federal courts resolve cases involving both federal and state law claims on federal grounds when possible.22 On the contrary, the doctrine of constitutional avoidance counsels that federal courts should not decide federal constitutional claims if they can avoid doing so, meaning that it may be an abuse of discretion for a federal court to reach a federal constitutional question when it could decide a case on state law grounds.23

The foregoing cases considered when federal courts may exercise supplemental jurisdiction over claims over which they would not otherwise have jurisdiction. A related doctrine, sometimes called pendent party jurisdiction, allows the federal courts to hear claims involving parties who might not otherwise be subject to federal subject matter jurisdiction.24

In 1978, in Owen Equipment & Erection Co. v. Kroger, the Supreme Court announced a limit on pendent party jurisdiction, holding that a plaintiff could not amend her complaint to add a claim against a third-party defendant that was a resident of the plaintiff’s home state.25 The Court again limited pendent party jurisdiction in the 1989 case Finley v. United States.26 Justice Antonin Scalia’s majority opinion in Finley declined to disturb the doctrine of pendent claim jurisdiction laid out in Gibbs, and explicitly acknowledged that pendent party jurisdiction also fell within the constitutional grant of federal judicial power. However, the Court declined to “read jurisdictional statutes broadly” in support of pendent party jurisdiction.27 The majority emphasized that its holding, based on application of the jurisdictional statutes, “can of course be changed by Congress.” 28

The following year, Congress enacted legislation that expressly granted the federal courts pendent party jurisdiction.29

, 104 Stat. 5089, § 310 (codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1367). Codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1367, the statute provides that, subject to certain limitations, once the federal district courts have jurisdiction over a case, they “shall have supplemental jurisdiction over all other claims that are so related to claims in the action within such original jurisdiction that they form part of the same case or controversy under Article III of the United States Constitution,” including “claims that involve the joinder or intervention of additional parties.” 30 Section 1367(b) codified the holding in Owen Equipment imposing limits on the federal courts’ ability to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over certain claims by plaintiffs against non-diverse defendants.31 More generally, the Supreme Court has explained that Section 1367 “codified [the] principles” of Gibbs and related cases in a supplemental jurisdiction statute that “combines the doctrines of pendent and ancillary jurisdiction under a common heading.” 32

22 U.S. 738, 823 (1824). back
Supplemental jurisdiction may exist in cases where federal court jurisdiction is based on either the existence of a federal question or diversity of citizenship. For discussion of diversity jurisdiction, where the federal courts possess jurisdiction over a case because the parties are from different states, see ArtIII.S2.C1.16.1 Overview of Diversity Jurisdiction to ArtIII.S2.C1.16.7 Conflicts-of-Law and Procedural Rules in Diversity Cases; ArtIII.S2.C1.18.1 Controversies Between a State or its Citizens and Foreign States or Citizens to ArtIII.S2.C1.17 Land Grants by Different States. back
See, e.g., Romero v. Int’l Terminal Operating Co., 358 U.S. 354, 380–81 (1959); Fitzgerald v. United States Lines Co., 374 U.S. 16 (1963); Rosado v. Wyman, 397 U.S. 397, 402–05 (1970). While some courts and commentators consider pendent jurisdiction to be one type of ancillary jurisdiction, others use the two terms to refer to distinct but related categories of cases See, e.g., Erwin Chemerinsky, Federal Jurisdiction 343 (5th ed. 2007); see also infra notes 4–5 and accompanying text. back
For example, plaintiffs suing for civil rights violations often raise claims under the federal statute 42 U.S.C. § 1983 as well analogous state law claims. back
Moore v. N.Y. Cotton Exch., 270 U.S. 593 (1926). back
65 U.S. 450 (1861). back
Id. at 460. back
511 U.S. 375 (1994). See also Peacock v. Thomas, 516 U.S. 349 (1996) (holding that federal courts do not possess ancillary jurisdiction over new actions in which a federal judgment creditor seeks to impose liability for a money judgment on a person not otherwise liable for the judgment). back
Kokkonen, 511 U.S. at 379–80. back
213 U.S. 175 (1909). back
Id. at 191. back
289 U.S. 238 (1933). back
Id. at 246. back
383 U.S. 715 (1966). back
Id. at 725. back
Id. back
Id. back
Id. at 726 back
Hagans v. Lavine, 415 U.S. 528, 537–38 (1974); see also Gibbs, 383 U.S. at 725. back
Pennhurst State Sch. & Hosp. v. Halderman, 465 U.S. 89, 120 (1984). For further discussion of the Eleventh Amendment, see Amdt11.5.1 General Scope of State Sovereign Immunity. back
Gibbs, 383 U.S. at 726–27. back
See, e.g., Greene v. Louisville & Interurban R.R., 244 U.S. 499, 508 (1917) (holding that, once federal court jurisdiction is established, it extends “to the determination of all questions involved in the case, including questions of state law, irrespective of the disposition that may be made of the Federal question, or whether it be found necessary to decide it at all” ). back
Hagans, 415 U.S. at 549–50; Schmidt v. Oakland Unified Sch. Dist., 457 U.S. 594 (1982) (per curiam); Siler v. Louisville & Nashville R.R., 213 U.S. 175, 191 (1909). For discussion of the constitutional avoidance doctrine, see ArtIII.S2.C1.10.1 Overview of Constitutional Avoidance Doctrine. back
In addition to subject matter jurisdiction, there is a separate constitutional requirement that any court hearing a claim against a party must also possess personal jurisdiction over that party. See generally Amdt14.S1.7.1.1 Overview of Personal Jurisdiction and Due Process. back
437 U.S. 365 (1978). back
490 U.S. 545 (1989). back
Id. at 556. back
Id. back
Act of Dec. 1, 1990, Pub. L. No.
, 104 Stat. 5089, § 310
(codified at 28 U.S.C. § 1367). back
28 U.S.C. § 1367(a); see also 28 U.S.C. § 1441(c) (allowing for removal to federal court of any civil action that includes “(A) a claim arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States (within the meaning of section 1331 of this title), and (B) a claim not within the original or supplemental jurisdiction of the district court or a claim that has been made nonremovable by statute” ). back
28 U.S.C. § 1367(b) ( “In any civil action of which the district courts have original jurisdiction founded solely on section 1332 of this title, the district courts shall not have supplemental jurisdiction under subsection (a) over claims by plaintiffs against persons made parties under Rule 14, 19, 20, or 24 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, or over claims by persons proposed to be joined as plaintiffs under Rule 19 of such rules, or seeking to intervene as plaintiffs under Rule 24 of such rules, when exercising supplemental jurisdiction over such claims would be inconsistent with the jurisdictional requirements of section 1332.” ). See also Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Servs., Inc., 545 U.S. 546, 573 (Stevens, J., dissenting) (quoting House Report on Section 1367, which was also adopted by the Senate). back
City of Chicago v. Int’l College of Surgeons, 522 U.S. 156 (1998). back