Proving Diversity Jurisdiction
You may be among the many attorneys who call upon us for a variety of litigation support reasons including computer forensics, location and interviews of witnesses, background checks, uncovering hidden assets, etc. We often work under very tight schedules and wouldn't think of taking your valuable time to promote all of the other attorneys’ support services we provide.
This newsletter is a good way to share with you information about one of our less requested (but highly valuable) service offerings: Aiding in establishing Diversity of Citizenship.
Diversity of Citizenship exists when opposing parties in a civil suit are citizens of different states or non-U.S. citizens and the amount of money involved exceeds a certain minimum (currently $75,000). As an example, Party A, a California citizen, sues Party B, a citizen of Florida. The Defendant Floridian may feel a California judge would be biased against his counter arguments because he, the Defendant is not a resident of California and, to complicate matters, is likely unfamiliar with California laws. Title 28 of the United States Code, § 1332 allows Federal courts to hear cases originally filed in state courts; this law was created to counteract such local prejudices.
Diversity Jurisdiction exists to eliminate potential bias by removing the case from a local court to a federal court, but in order to have the case elevated to federal court, the Defendant must first prove that complete diversity is present and applicable.
For complete diversity to exist, none of the Plaintiffs can be “currently domiciled” in the same state as any of the Defendants. Of particular importance are the legal definitions, for this purpose, of the terms domiciledand currently.
Continuing our example, let’s assume Party B and his attorney cited Diversity Jurisdiction to have the case elevated to federal court. They must prove the Plaintiff is not just a resident of California, but is also domiciled in California.
One may wonder, “What’s the difference between being a resident and being domiciled?” The answer can be rather complicated, and regularly leads to jurisdictional statement revisions.
A person can be a resident of multiple states; in this example, Party A, the Californian, owns a vacation property in Oregon and visits Oregon several weeks each year. He pays Oregon property taxes and holds an Oregon State Resident Hunting License. But a person can only be domiciled in one state, and can only be a “permanent resident” in one particular jurisdiction at any given time. So, although Party A owns property in Oregon, he occupies and owns a home in California for most of the year, votes in Los Angeles County, has been employed in California for ten years, holds a California driver’s license, and has children in Los Angeles Public Schools. When reviewing these facts, its clear Party A is domiciled in California.
Because a person can only be domiciled in one state at a given time, Title 28 of the United States Code requires that diversity be determined relative to the time the action is filed, meaning that each party’s citizenship is defined at the time of the filing, not at the time of the cause of action. There are exceptions, but generally a party’s citizenship at the time of the action’s filing is considered the citizenship of the party, regardless whether either party relocated thereafter.
This makes it of crucial importance that the Defendant’s lawyer has timely access to the facts required to conclusively and inarguably establish jurisdiction. Our firm understands the importance of these issues and we’re aware there’s often a great deal at stake. With your needs in mind, we have the requisite abilities to quickly:
- Identify and verify current home address
- Identify property ownership
- Identify and verify jurisdiction of current voter registration
- Identify current employer, and
- Determine current driver’s license.
When performed separately, these searches merely provide details about an individual’s background. When combined, they provide credible facts for jurisdictional statement filings.
The next time proving diversity jurisdiction is an issue in a civil matter, please be aware this is familiar territory for the investigators at Diversified Risk Management.