The Trojan Horse: How the Declaratory Judgment Act Created a Cause of Action and Expanded Federal Jurisdiction While the Supreme Court Wasn't Looking
68 Pages Posted: 27 May 2008
The Supreme Court's efforts to define the contours of federal question jurisdiction in declaratory judgment cases have not been coherent. The Court has interpreted the federal Declaratory Judgment Act to be procedural only, and therefore without jurisdictional effect. The result is that parties seeking a declaratory judgment may present a well-pleaded, substantial federal question in their complaints only to be thrown out on jurisdictional grounds. This article demonstrates that the Court's procedural-only view of the Act frustrates congressional intent and is neither analytically sound nor practical. The Court's assumptions about the jurisdictional import of the Act find no support in the legislative history, rendering the Court's approach to declaratory judgment cases in direct conflict with Congress's intentions. The solution is to give the Act the full jurisdictional import that Congress intended it to have.
Keywords: declaratory judgment, federal question jurisdiction
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