Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2013

Publication Citation

88 Indiana Law Journal 611 (2013)


Federal court procedural, especially jurisdictional ones, need to be governed by clear, effective, and fair rules. Yet twentieth century doctrines and reforms, even when made in the name of pragmatism, have produced decidedly unpragmatic results: a vague and disputed doctrine of federal question jurisdiction that excludes from federal court many cases where federal law controls the outcome, rules that facilitate forum shopping by plaintiffs and make it impossible to predict in advance what law will apply to decide one’s case, and the stunning waste of a system in which the exact same issues are simultaneously litigated in state and federal courts as part of a “race to judgment.” The status quo is, quite simply, broken.

This Article contends that we can ameliorate these concerns by permitting removal to federal court whenever the parties are diverse and whenever the defendant’s answer or plaintiff’s reply shows that a case arises under federal law— rather than artificially limiting our vision to the plaintiff’s well-pleaded complaint. Though modest, these reforms could serve as a tonic to many of the status quo’s most striking irrationalities: the criteria for federal question jurisdiction would be expanded to cover many currently excluded cases that turn on federal law, plaintiffs would lose opportunities to forum shop by pinning unwilling defendants in state courts, and the systemic waste of duplicative and concurrent state-federal litigation could be largely eliminated. By broadly addressing these deeply-rooted problems, this Article aims at improving the clarity, rationality, and essential fairness of the rules that govern our federal courts.