Document Type

Article

Publication Date

2007

Abstract

Part I introduces the central themes in the law of federal question jurisdiction. It describes the prevailing interpretations of the constitutional and statutory texts governing the federal courts' jurisdiction to adjudicate disputes involving questions of federal law, and it explores the reasons for the establishment of such jurisdiction. This Part also introduces the well-pleaded complaint rule and examines the reasons for its adoption by the Supreme Court. Part II provides a detailed account of complete preemption doctrine, under which parties are permitted to usher state-law claims into the federal courts despite the apparent absence of any federal question on the face of the plaintiff's well-pleaded complaint. Under the complete preemption rule, a state-law claim will fall within the federal question jurisdiction of the federal courts if it is preempted by a federal statutory scheme that provides the exclusive cause of action for the harm alleged. Part II emphasizes the apparent disconnect between this special jurisdictional rule and the reasons underlying the creation of federal question jurisdiction in the first place-in particular, the need for uniformity in the interpretation of federal law. Part III answers the question of what complete preemption jurisprudence might look like were it reshaped in light of the relationship between preemption and the uniformity interest. I develop this answer by focusing on a feature of this interest that has been overlooked by courts and commentators alike. Specifically, the interest in uniformity comes in two distinct forms: "equal-application uniformity," which denotes the interest in assuring that all parties subject to a particular regulatory rule are treated alike, and "regulatory uniformity,"which refers to the interest in subjecting regulated entities to a single rule of law when regulation by a multitude of sovereigns would be intolerable. I argue that the intensity of the interest in regulatory uniformity varies significantly among federal statutory schemes and that where this interest is implicated with unusual force, the argument for federal jurisdiction is strongest. I explain, finally, that we can discern when the interest in regulatory uniformity is in play through careful attention to how broadly preemptive a federal statutory scheme is. Accordingly, Part III makes the case that the doctrine of complete preemption would operate more sensibly if it were remodeled with an eye to the breadth of federal preemption.


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