Centre for Independence of Judges v. Mabey, No. C 82-0158J.

CourtU.S. District Court — District of Utah
Writing for the CourtJENKINS
Citation19 BR 635
PartiesCENTRE FOR the INDEPENDENCE OF JUDGES AND LAWYERS OF the UNITED STATES, INC., Plaintiff, v. Ralph R. MABEY, Judge United States Bankruptcy Court, Defendant.
Decision Date12 March 1982
Docket NumberNo. C 82-0158J.

19 B.R. 635 (1982)

Ralph R. MABEY, Judge United States Bankruptcy Court, Defendant.

No. C 82-0158J.

United States District Court D. Utah, C.D.

March 12, 1982.

19 BR 636
19 BR 637
L. T. Bradt, Spring, Tex., for plaintiff

Joseph Anderson, Asst. U.S. Atty., Salt Lake City, Utah, for defendant.


JENKINS, District Judge.

The plaintiff commenced this action through the filing of its complaint on March 3, 1982. Plaintiff complains that defendant has presided over thousands of bankruptcy cases where a local bank on whose board his father sits, is a creditor; that certain orders converting reorganization proceedings (Chapter XI) to liquidation proceedings (Chapter VII) were inappropriate; that certain unnamed attorneys are afraid to properly represent their clients and such unnamed attorneys gave unnamed clients bad advice; that certain international accords give plaintiff special power to complain in this matter; that Walker Bank should not be a depository of estate funds; that this Court should issue certain injunctions; and, that plaintiff be paid a sum of money. The matter is now before this Court for consideration sua sponte of the question of subject-matter jurisdiction.


That the federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction is a fundamental premise of our American constitutional system. "The limits on federal jurisdiction, whether imposed by the Constitution or by Congress, must be neither disregarded nor evaded." Owen Equipment & Erection Co. v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 374, 98 S.Ct. 2396,

19 BR 638
2403, 57 L.Ed.2d 274 (1978); accord, Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Transport Workers Union of America, 451 U.S. 77, 95, 101 S.Ct. 1571, 1582, 67 L.Ed.2d 750 (1981); General Atomic Co. v. United Nuclear Corp., 655 F.2d 968 (9th Cir. 1981); 13 C. Wright, A. Miller & E. Cooper, Federal Practice and Procedure § 3522 (1975)

A party seeking to maintain an action in the federal courts must affirmatively establish the jurisdiction of the court over the subject-matter of his claims before any disposition of the action on the merits is attempted. "The presumption is that the court lacks jurisdiction in a particular case until it has been demonstrated that jurisdiction over the subject matter exists." C. Wright, Law of Federal Courts § 7, at 17 (3d ed. 1976); accord, Turner v. President, Directors and Company of the Bank of North America, 4 U.S. (4 Dall.) 8, 1 L.Ed. 718 (1799); Bingham v. Cabot, 3 U.S. (3 Dall.) 382, 1 L.Ed. 646 (1798); McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 56 S.Ct. 780, 80 L.Ed. 1135 (1935).

"The rule, springing from the nature and limits of the judicial power of the United States, is inflexible and without exception which requires this court, of its own motion, to deny its own jurisdiction, and, in the exercise of its appellate power, that of all other courts of the United States, in all cases where such jurisdiction does not affirmatively appear in the record on which, in the exercise of that power, it is called to act. . . . This question the court is bound to ask and answer for itself, even when not otherwise suggested, and without respect to the relation of the parties to it."

Mansfield, Coldwater & Lake Michigan Ry. v. Swan, 111 U.S. 379, 382, 4 S.Ct. 510, 511, 28 L.Ed. 462 (1884). The rule declared in Mansfield finds direct reflection in Rule 12(h)(3) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provides that "whenever it appears by suggestion of the parties or otherwise that the court lacks jurisdiction of the subject matter, the court shall dismiss the action."

The principle declared in the Mansfield case and codified in the Federal Rules can properly be called the first principle of federal jurisdiction. The principle is reflected not only in the requirements of proper pleadings and requests for review but in the accepted form of workmanlike briefs and oral argument. The first duty of counsel is to make clear to the court the basis of its jurisdiction as a federal court. The first duty of the court is to make sure that jurisdiction exists. If the record fails to disclose a basis for federal jurisdiction, the court not only will but must refuse to proceed further with the determination of the merits of the controversy unless the failure can be cured. This is true whether the case is at the trial stage or the appellate stage, and whether the defect is called to the court\'s attention "by suggestion of the parties or otherwise." . . .

H. Hart & H. Wechsler, The Federal Courts and the Federal System 719 (1953) (emphasis added).

The question of jurisdiction is the "threshold inquiry" in all federal proceedings. See e.g., Reid v. Ford, Bacon & Davis Constr. Corp., 405 F.2d 861 (8th Cir. 1969); Rock Island Millwork Co. v. Hedges-Gough Lumber Co., 337 F.2d 24 (5th Cir. 1964); Roberson v. Harris, 393 F.2d 123, 124 (8th Cir. 1968); Rice v. Rice Foundation, 610 F.2d 471, 474 (7th Cir. 1979). "A court lacking jurisdiction cannot render judgment but must dismiss the cause at any stage of the proceedings in which it becomes apparent that jurisdiction is lacking." Basso v. Utah Power & Light Co., 495 F.2d 906, 909 (10th Cir. 1974) (emphasis in original); Bradbury v. Dennis, 310 F.2d 73 (10th Cir. 1962), cert. denied, 372 U.S. 928, 83 S.Ct. 874, 9 L.Ed.2d 733 (1963).

Determination of the question of jurisdiction need not await action by the parties. The court is empowered to raise the question on its own motion. See e.g., Citizens Concerned for Separation of Church and State v. City and County of Denver, 628 F.2d 1289, 1297 (10th Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 452 U.S. 963, 101 S.Ct. 3114, 69

19 BR 639
L.Ed.2d 975; Pacific Towboat & Salvage Co. v. I.C.C., 620 F.2d 727 (9th Cir. 1980); Rowe v. United States, 633 F.2d 799 (9th Cir. 1980). Indeed, it must do so. The United States Supreme Court has instructed us that "it is the duty of this court to see to it that the jurisdiction of the district court, which is defined and limited by statute, is not exceeded." Louisville & Nashville R. Co. v. Mottley, 211 U.S. 149, 152, 29 S.Ct. 42, 43, 53 L.Ed. 126 (1908); accord, City of Kenosha, Wisconsin v. Bruno, 412 U.S. 507, 511, 93 S.Ct. 2222, 2225, 37 L.Ed.2d 109 (1973); Liberty Mutual Ins. Co. v. Wetzel, 424 U.S. 737, 740, 96 S.Ct. 1202, 1204, 47 L.Ed.2d 435 (1976); Mt. Healthy City Board of Education v. Doyle, 429 U.S. 274, 278, 97 S.Ct. 568, 571, 50 L.Ed.2d 471 (1977). The federal courts of appeal and the federal district courts bear an equal obligation to determine their own jurisdiction. "Because we may not proceed without requisite jurisdiction, it is incumbent upon federal courts—trial and appellate—to constantly examine the basis of jurisdiction, doing so on our own motion if necessary." Save the Bay, Inc. v. United States Army, 639 F.2d 1100, 1102 (5th Cir. 1981). "If the parties do not raise the question of lack of jurisdiction, it is the duty of the federal court to determine the matter sua sponte. Atlas Life Insurance Co. v. W.I. Southern Inc., 306 U.S. 563, 59 S.Ct. 657, 83 L.Ed. 987 (1939); . . ." Basso v. Utah Power & Light Co., supra, 495 F.2d at 909 (citation omitted); see Matter of Kutner, 656 F.2d 1107, 1110 (5th Cir. 1981)

This Court "must in every case, and at every stage of the proceeding, satisfy itself as to its own jurisdiction, . . ." Citizens Concerned for Separation of Church and State v. City and County of Denver, supra, 628 F.2d at 1301; accord, Northwest Airlines, Inc. v. Air Line Pilots Ass'n, 373 F.2d 136, 142 (8th Cir. 1967), cert. denied 389 U.S. 827,88 S.Ct. 77, 19 L.Ed.2d 83. In doing so, it is appropriate to look to the pleadings filed by the plaintiff, for the reason that "the party invoking the jurisdiction of the court has the duty to establish that federal jurisdiction does exist," Basso v. Utah Power & Light Co., supra, 495 F.2d at 909; Wilshire Oil Co. of Texas v. Riffe, 409 F.2d 1277, 1282 (10th Cir. 1969) and bears the burden of proof as to jurisdictional facts and allegations. Id., Becker v. Angle, 165 F.2d 140 (10th Cir. 1947); Pettinelli v. Danzig, 644 F.2d 1160, 1161 (5th Cir. 1981); Data Disc, Inc. v. Systems Technology Associates, Inc., 557 F.2d 1280, 1285 (9th Cir. 1977); O'Hare Int'l Bank v. Hampton, 437 F.2d 1173, 1176 (7th Cir. 1971); Lehigh Val. Industries, Inc. v. Birenbaum, 527 F.2d 87, 92 (2d Cir. 1975). However, "the trial court is not bound by the pleadings of the parties, but may, of its own motion, if led to believe that its jurisdiction is not properly invoked, `inquire into the facts as they really exist.' Wetmore v. Rymer, 169 U.S. 115, 120, 18 S.Ct. 293, 295, 42 L.Ed. 682; . . ." McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 184, 56 S.Ct. 780, 782, 80 L.Ed. 1135 (1936).

A federal court's duty to constantly supervise its own jurisdiction includes the duty to examine the "case or controversy" requirement imposed by Article III, Section 2 of the United States Constitution. This Court, therefore, may—indeed must—inquire of the justiciability of an action brought before it, including inquiry into the standing of the party to bring it. See Citizens Concerned for Separation of Church and State v. City and County of Denver, supra, 628 F.2d at 1294-1301; Western Mining Council v. Watt, 643 F.2d 618, 623-624 (9th Cir. 1981); see also Juidice v. Vail, 430 U.S. 327, 331, 97 S.Ct. 1211, 1215, 51 L.Ed.2d 376 (1977). "Those who seek to invoke the power of the federal courts must allege an actual case or controversy." O'Shea v. Littleton, 414 U.S. 488, 493, 94 S.Ct. 669, 674, 38 L.Ed.2d 674 (1974). The issues raised by the party invoking jurisdiction must "present a real and substantial controversy which unequivocally calls for the adjudication of . . . rights." Poe v. Ullman, 367 U.S. 497, 509, 81 S.Ct. 1752, 1759, 6 L.Ed.2d 989 (1961) (Brennan,...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT