• April 14, 2010

[UPDATE:  To paraphrase Britney Spears, “Oops, she did it again…”  Today, U.S. District Court Judge Joan Ericksen reminded plaintiffs’ counsel in the Lyle Berman case against the Milberg law firm and others of plaintiffs’ burden, when suing a partnership and claiming federal jurisdiction based on diversity of citizenship, that they have to plead the citizenship of the partners in the partnership to establish that diversity jurisdiction applies. ]

Every American civil litigator should know the prerequisites of diversity jurisdiction to get into federal court and, compared with many aspects of the practice of law, these prerequisites are not very complicated.

Nevertheless, litigators, as opposed to “business lawyers” (that is, those who help set up and organize business entities) get tripped up more often than one might think by failing to distinguish between partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations when it comes to figuring out a client’s “citizenship” when that client is a business.

It is likely a temporary detour, in the linked case, where U.S. District Court Judge Joan Ericksen, “sua sponte,” (that is, without the issue being raised by the parties or their lawyers) called into question the plaintiff’s invocation of diversity jurisdiction and criticized its “muddled” allegations.   While only a minor lapse, early on in a legal skirmish is not an opportune time for being given a public lesson in federal jurisdiction by the Court.

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