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Legal Memorandum: Lack of Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Issue: What is the standard for a motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in the Third Circuit?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Motion to dismiss; Standard applicable; Subject matter jurisdiction lacking
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 983 F.2d 1277; 885 F.2d 66; 528 F.2d 470; 115 F.3d 176
Cited Statutes: Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1), Rule 12(b)(6)
Date: 05/01/2005

A challenge to a federal complaint that alleges lack of subject matter jurisdiction is governed by Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1).  Case law from the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit on the question is well settled.  “A district court has federal question jurisdiction in any case where a plaintiff with standing makes a non-frivolous allegation that he or she is entitled to relief because the defendant’s conduct violated a federal statute.”  Growth Horizons, Inc. v. Del. County, Pa., 983 F.2d 1277, 1281 (3d Cir. 1993) (holding that the plaintiff made a non-frivolous claim that the county violated the Fair Housing Act).  The threshold for a plaintiff to withstand a motion to dismiss under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(1) is lower than that required for the plaintiff to withstand a Rule 12(b)(6) motion.  Luderstadt v. Colafella, 885 F.2d 66, 70 (3d Cir. 1989).  The federal court’s jurisdiction must appear in the plaintiff’s statement of claim.  Schultz v. Cally, 528 F.2d 470, 474 (3d Cir. 1975).  “The rule that legal insufficiency of a federal claim generally does not eliminate the subject matter jurisdiction of a federal court has been reaffirmed and clarified by both the Supreme Court and [the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit] on several occasions.”  Growth Horizons, Inc. v. Del. County, Pa., 983 F.2d 1277, 1280 (3d Cir. 1993).

When, under Rule 12(b)(1), the defendant makes more than a merely facial challenge […]

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