Article Iii and the Cause of Action

86 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2006


This Article undertakes a systematic exploration of the concept of the "cause of action" as it is used by courts and scholars in making arguments about the scope of the federal judicial power. The concept of the cause of action figures prominently in debates about such fundamental questions as what kinds of cases Congress may empower federal courts to adjudicate (jurisdiction), who may initiate a case in federal court (standing), and when a federal court may afford a plaintiff a private remedy for the violation of a federal regulatory scheme (implied rights of action). Federal courts have answered these questions, and scholars have evaluated their answers - all, in many instances, claiming the historical legitimacy of their analyses - based on certain presuppositions regarding when a cause of action exists and what the properties of a cause of action are. As this Article argues, conceptions of the cause of action are historically contingent. Arguments about the scope of the Article III judicial power across doctrinal categories generally fail to account for differences between past and present conceptions of the cause of action. Only when we view historical evidence and explanations of the federal judicial power in light of historical understandings of the concept of the cause of action can we properly evaluate courts' and scholars' reliance on the cause of action in making historical arguments about the contours of the federal judicial power.

Keywords: Article III, arising under, Osborn, standing, implied rights of action, cause of action, federal courts, federal jurisdiction, constitutional law, jurisdiction

Suggested Citation

Bellia Jr., Anthony J., Article Iii and the Cause of Action. Iowa Law Review, Vol. 89, p. 777, 2004, Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper, Available at SSRN:

Anthony J. Bellia Jr. (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0399
United States
574-631-9353 (Phone)
574-631-8078 (Fax)

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