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Vanderbilt University Law School

2017

Constitutional Law

Jurisdictional statutes

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The Jurisdiction Canon, Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl Mar 2017

The Jurisdiction Canon, Aaron-Andrew P. Bruhl

Vanderbilt Law Review

This Article concerns the interpretation of jurisdictional statutes. The fundamental postulate of the law of the federal courts is that the federal courts are courts of limited subject-matter jurisdiction. That principle is reinforced by a canon of statutory interpretation according to which statutes conferring federal subject-matter jurisdiction are to be construed narrowly, with ambiguities resolved against the availability of federal jurisdiction. This interpretive canon is over a century old and has been recited in thousands of federal cases, but its future has become uncertain. The Supreme Court recently stated that the canon does not apply to many of today's most …