Partnership for America Urges U.S. Supreme Court to Reaffirm Constitutional Protections for Out-of State Defendantson October 30, 2012
Washington, D.C. – October 31, 2012 – The Partnership for America submitted an amicus brief Monday in Standard Fire v. Knowles urging the U.S. Supreme Court to reject the attempt to defeat federal jurisdiction required by the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA) and reaffirm that there should be no presumption against removal of cases to federal court when the plaintiff and defendant are from different states.
“The U.S. Constitution provides for federal diversity jurisdiction to prevent state court bias against out-of-state defendants,” said James Wootton, chairman and CEO of the Partnership for America. “Congress took an important step toward restoring the constitutional plan of federal court jurisdiction for consideration of interstate cases when it passed CAFA seven years ago.”
Charles J. Cooper, chairman of Washington-based Cooper & Kirk, PLLC, and a leading constitutional law and state sovereignty expert, wrote the Partnership for America’s amicus brief. “The doctrine of complete diversity and other techniques used by federal courts to avoid taking jurisdiction in diversity cases are at war with a key purpose in establishing the federal judiciary,” Cooper said. “The founders’ intent was to facilitate national trade and commerce by providing a neutral federal tribunal for resolving disputes between interstate litigants.”
The Partnership’s brief urges the Supreme Court to do more than merely reverse the district court’s acceptance of the contrived stipulation in Standard Fire. Cooper invites the Court (1) to reject as improper the presumption against removal of diversity cases that the Federal District Court relied on in this case and (2) to reaffirm the important role diversity jurisdiction plays in the constitutional design.
Cooper calls for the Court to confirm its earlier instruction to the federal judiciary “that it may no more sanction a scheme to evade its duty to decide cases falling within the diversity jurisdiction than it may do so with respect to any other type of cases.”
“The reluctance of federal courts to exercise jurisdiction over controversies involving citizens of different states has fueled the litigation explosion of the last fifty years,” Wootton said. “The contest for influence in state court systems between profit-driven class action lawyers and national companies fearful of being trapped in plaintiff-friendly
state courts has eroded respect for the American legal system and confidence in the impartiality of elected judges.
“The framers did an inspired job of designing the legal system of the United States to be free from bias,” Wootton continued. “If the U.S. Supreme Court rejects the prevailing presumption against removal, it would continue the momentum created by Congress when it enacted CAFA to restore the protections plainly provided in the Constitution for out-of-state defendants.
“However the Court rules in Standard Fire, the concerns raised by Cooper’s brief suggest the time may have come for Congress again to intervene to make certain that the American legal system functions as it was intended,” Wootton added.
The Partnership for America is a nonprofit organization that promotes public policy solutions consistent with the nation’s founding principles. More information about the organization and its programs is available at www.partnership4america.org.
James Wootton is chairman and CEO of the Partnership for America. He is a former president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Legal Reform, and helped organize the coalition that promoted passage of the Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA).
Charles J. Cooper, chairman of Washington-based Cooper & Kirk, PLLC, was a clerk for Chief Justice William Rehnquist, assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel, and chairman of the Working Group on Federalism during the Reagan Administration.