Port Drum Co. v. Umphrey, No. 88-2179

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore POLITZ, KING and SMITH; JERRY E. SMITH
Citation852 F.2d 148
PartiesPORT DRUM COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Walter UMPHREY and Kurt B. Chacon, Defendants-Appellees. Summary Calendar.
Docket NumberNo. 88-2179
Decision Date16 August 1988

Page 148

852 F.2d 148
12 Fed.R.Serv.3d 114
PORT DRUM COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
Walter UMPHREY and Kurt B. Chacon, Defendants-Appellees.
No. 88-2179
Summary Calendar.
United States Court of Appeals,
Fifth Circuit.
Aug. 16, 1988.

Marian S. Rosen, Houston, Tex., for plaintiff-appellant.

Russell Serafin, Robert Davee, Mills, Shirley, Eckel & Bassett, Galveston, Tex., for defendants-appellees.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

Before POLITZ, KING and SMITH, Circuit Judges.

JERRY E. SMITH, Circuit Judge:

Port Drum Co. ("Port Drum") filed this suit seeking damages and declaratory relief against Walter Umphrey and Kurt Chacon, two attorneys who had maintained a wrongful death suit in federal court. Although Port Drum was never a party to that action, it asserts that federal law grants it a private cause of action to enforce Fed.R.Civ.P. 11. 1 Under Port Drum's

Page 149

unique and imaginative theory, injured third parties derive from Rule 11 a private cause of action to enforce an attorney's professional duties. For reasons stated for the most part in the district court's opinion dismissing Port Drum's suit, we reject this novel legal argument.

I.

The instant case arises from a previous lawsuit wherein Umphrey and Chacon, attorneys, represented the estate of Jimmy Sterling Smith. The decedent had been an employee of Port Drum whose job responsibilities included the cleaning of chemical residue from used drums. Umphrey and Chacon filed a lawsuit on behalf of the estate and against the chemical manufacturers, alleging that the exposure to their chemical residues caused Smith's death. Port Drum was never made a party to the wrongful death suit, nor did it ever intervene in that action. In the instant suit, Port Drum alleges that certain businesses, named defendants in the estate's lawsuit, have notified Port Drum that they will no longer do business with Port Drum because they were sued in the first lawsuit. Port Drum alleges that Umphrey and Chacon repeatedly violated Fed.R.Civ.P. 11, and focuses on an amended complaint that added 52 defendants who had never done business with Port Drum.

Port Drum asserted jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2201 (the Declaratory Judgment Act), 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1331 (establishing federal question jurisdiction), and Fed.R.Civ.P. 11. The district court held that none of these provisions supplies subject matter jurisdiction for federal courts to entertain private causes of action to enforce Rule 11. 119 F.R.D. 26 (E.D.Tex.1988). We agree with the court's lucid opinion, which rejects section 2201 and Rule 11 as bases for subject matter jurisdiction and holds that the construction of Rule 11 does not present a "federal question" for purposes of conferring jurisdiction under section 1331. Id. at 27-28.

II.

Section 1331 confers federal jurisdiction in actions "arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States." It is true that a federal rule of civil procedure "has the force of a federal statute." Sibbach v. Wilson & Co., 312 U.S. 1, 13, 61 S.Ct. 422, 426, 85 L.Ed. 479 (1941). The question before us, however, is not whether the rules can be enforced, as can a statute, but whether the existence of such a rule (here, specifically, Rule 11) makes a case one arising under federal law. We hold that the rule is not a "law" in that sense but is instead a regulator of a party's proceedings once that party is in federal court pursuant to another, independent jurisdictional grant. The rules, then, only implement the exercise of jurisdiction otherwise conferred by Congress and do not provide an independent basis for parties without any other jurisdictional grant

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to get into federal court in the first place. See Mississippi Publishing Corp. v. Murphree, 326 U.S. 438, 444-46, 66 S.Ct. 242, 245-46, 90 L.Ed. 185 (1946).

A contrary analysis would be circular and would defeat the concept of federal jurisdiction as limited. By definition, any party to a federal court proceeding is subject to the federal rules and entitled to the benefits of the same. If the rules constituted independent grants of jurisdiction, a party with no other basis of jurisdiction could bootstrap itself into federal court, and survive a jurisdictional motion to dismiss, merely by alleging a desire to enjoy the benefits of one of the rules or to have that rule construed.

But Congress has stated unequivocally that the rules are not to be used for such a purpose. The Enabling Act, 28 U.S.C. Sec. 2072, provides that the rules of civil procedure "shall not abridge, enlarge or modify any substantive rights...." Similarly,...

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43 practice notes
  • McShares, Inc. v. Barry, No. 80,527
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • December 18, 1998
    ...by motion in a pending case; there can be no independent cause of action instituted for Rule 11 sanctions. Port Drum Co. v. Umphrey, 852 F.2d 148, 151 (5th Cir.1988). "On the other hand, the common law tort of malicious prosecution is a claim in its own right under applicable state law. In ......
  • Church of Scientology Int'l v. Kolts, No. CV 93-1390-RSWL (EEx).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • February 16, 1994
    ...However, while the Code may have the force of law, it does not seem to provide a grant of jurisdiction. Cf. Port Drum Co. v. Umphrey, 852 F.2d 148, 149-50 (5th Cir.1988) (holding that Rule 11 of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is not a federal law for purposes of Section 1331 jurisdiction,......
  • McGowan & Co. v. Bogan, Civil Action No. H–12–1716.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • March 17, 2015
    ...the basis for an independent cause of action. Elliott v. M/V Lois B., 980 F.2d 1001, 1007 (5th Cir.1993) ; Port Drum Co. v. Umphrey, 852 F.2d 148, 150–51 (5th Cir.1988). “[T]he purpose of Rule 11 is to deter groundless proceedings, and not necessarily to compensate wronged parties.” Elliott......
  • NY STATE NAT. ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN v. Terry, No. 88 Civ. 3071 (RJW).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • February 27, 1990
    ...procedure by discouraging groundless judicial proceedings, and does not confer any new substantive rights. Port Drum Co. v. Umphrey, 852 F.2d 148, 150 (5th Cir.1988); See also Gaiardo v. Ethyl Corp., 835 F.2d 479, 483 (3rd Cir.1987) (Rule 11 does not occasion a substantive change in the gen......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
43 cases
  • McShares, Inc. v. Barry, No. 80,527
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Kansas
    • December 18, 1998
    ...by motion in a pending case; there can be no independent cause of action instituted for Rule 11 sanctions. Port Drum Co. v. Umphrey, 852 F.2d 148, 151 (5th Cir.1988). "On the other hand, the common law tort of malicious prosecution is a claim in its own right under applicable state law. In ......
  • Church of Scientology Int'l v. Kolts, No. CV 93-1390-RSWL (EEx).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • February 16, 1994
    ...However, while the Code may have the force of law, it does not seem to provide a grant of jurisdiction. Cf. Port Drum Co. v. Umphrey, 852 F.2d 148, 149-50 (5th Cir.1988) (holding that Rule 11 of Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is not a federal law for purposes of Section 1331 jurisdiction,......
  • McGowan & Co. v. Bogan, Civil Action No. H–12–1716.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Texas
    • March 17, 2015
    ...the basis for an independent cause of action. Elliott v. M/V Lois B., 980 F.2d 1001, 1007 (5th Cir.1993) ; Port Drum Co. v. Umphrey, 852 F.2d 148, 150–51 (5th Cir.1988). “[T]he purpose of Rule 11 is to deter groundless proceedings, and not necessarily to compensate wronged parties.” Elliott......
  • NY STATE NAT. ORGANIZATION FOR WOMEN v. Terry, No. 88 Civ. 3071 (RJW).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. Southern District of New York
    • February 27, 1990
    ...procedure by discouraging groundless judicial proceedings, and does not confer any new substantive rights. Port Drum Co. v. Umphrey, 852 F.2d 148, 150 (5th Cir.1988); See also Gaiardo v. Ethyl Corp., 835 F.2d 479, 483 (3rd Cir.1987) (Rule 11 does not occasion a substantive change in the gen......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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