Concurrent Jurisdiction Presumed By Todd McMurtry

Concurrent Jurisdiction Presumed

By Todd McMurtry | tmcmurtry@dbllaw.com

 

In Mims v. Arrow Financial Services, LLC, 132 S.Ct. 740 (2012), the United States Supreme Court clarified that, unless specifically stated in the federal legislation, it is presumed that state and federal courts have concurrent jurisdiction over federal issues. This case involved claims arising under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). 47 U.S.C. § 227.

Here, Plaintiff brought his claims about computerized robo-calls initiated by the Defendant in the Federal District Court for the Southern District of Florida. The District Court dismissed Plaintiff’s claims for lack of jurisdiction. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed dismissal and the Supreme Court granted Certiorari.

The operative language of the law that led to dismissal was that “a private person may seek redress for violations of the Act in an appropriate court of [a] State.” Mims, 132 S.Ct at 744 (citing 47 U.S.C. § 227(b)(3)). On its face, the language suggests that state courts have exclusive jurisdiction of TCPA claims. Justice Ginsburg, writing for a unanimous court, disagreed.

Relying on 28 U.S.C. § 1331, which grants federal courts jurisdiction over federal claims, the Court stated that nothing in the “permissive language of § 227(b)(3) purports to oust federal courts of their” jurisdiction over federal claims. Mims, 132 S.Ct at 749. Defendant argued that the later-adopted language of the TCPA displaced § 1331. The Court disagreed, stating that “jurisdiction conferred by 28 U.S.C. § 1331 should hold firm against ‘mere implication flowing from subsequent legislation.’” Id. at 751 (citing Colorado River Water Conservation Dist. v. United States, 424 U.S. 800, 808, 809, n. 15, 96 S.Ct. 1236, 1236 L.Ed.2d 483 (1976)).

To explain its comment on the TCPA’s alleged grant of exclusive jurisdiction as a “mere implication,” the Court cited multiple statutes vesting “exclusive” jurisdiction. Id. at 750. Defendant argued persuasively that due to the potential burden on federal district courts and the apparent preference of the TCPA for state courts that Congress could not have reasonably intended a grant of federal court jurisdiction over TCPA claims. The Court nevertheless found that, absent specific language, concurrent jurisdiction over federal claims is presumed

 

 

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