A Revolution in Jurisdiction
in The Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg (Scott Dodson ed. Cambridge 2015)
16 Pages Posted: 15 Mar 2016
Date Written: February 17, 2015
This book chapter brings to light the enduring impact Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s opinions have had on the world of federal subject-matter jurisdiction. Subject-matter jurisdiction, often described as the “power” of a federal court, has attained a haloed status in federal jurisprudence over the years. I view Ginsburg’s jurisprudence in this area as a multi-pronged and multi-year attempt to desanctify subject-matter jurisdiction. She has led the charge to clarify and narrow when a limit is considered “jurisdictional,” has marshaled unanimous opinions undermining its “fundamental” stature, and has explored ways to “cure” its defects, all in the name of bringing pragmatism and sensibility to jurisdictional doctrine. In exploring these efforts, this chapter makes two contributions. The first is a systematic analysis of Ginsburg’s role — both as judge and justice — in pushing changes in jurisdictionality. The second is to offer some evaluative observations — mostly laudatory with a few gentle criticisms — of her efforts. Ultimately, I hope to illuminate this largely overshadowed area and give credit to the jurist whom I see as primarily responsible for its modern development.
Keywords: ginsburg, jurisdiction, resequencing, caterpillar, jurisdictionality, supreme court
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