pendent jurisdiction

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Pendent jurisdiction was a doctrine which gave federal courts exercising federal question jurisdiction the power to hear related state-law claims that did not independently meet the requirements of federal subject-matter jurisdiction. The exercise of pendent jurisdiction was meant to encourage judicial efficiency, as well as convenience and fairness to litigants. 

The test to determine which state-law claims fell within pendent jurisdiction evolved over time. In Hurn v. Oursler, the Supreme Court held that a federal court could decide a state claim when it shares a single cause of action with a federal question claim. However, this test proved to be too confusing. The Supreme Court developed a new test in United Mine Workers of America v. Gibbs, holding that a federal court could exercise pendent jurisdiction when the state and federal claims “derive from a common nucleus of operative fact.” 

Along with the related doctrine of ancillary jurisdiction, pendent jurisdiction was ultimately codified by Congress in 28 U.S.C. § 1367 under the term “supplemental jurisdiction.” 28 U.S.C. § 1367 also codified another related doctrine known as pendent-party jurisdiction, which allows federal courts to hear state-law claims against one party when they are closely related to a federal claim against a different party, even though the court lacks independent subject-matter jurisdiction over the state-law claim.

Though 28 U.S.C. § 1367 arguably creates a presumption in favor of exercising supplemental jurisdiction, pendent jurisdiction was historically a doctrine of discretion. Subsection (c) of the statute codified the circumstances discussed in the Gibbs decision where a federal court may decline to exercise supplemental jurisdiction over a state-law claim.

[Last updated in July of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]