Omni Capital Int’l, Ltd. v. Rudolf Wolff & Co.

484 U. S. 97

December 8, 1987

At the end of a series of events too complex to restate here, some folks from Louisiana tried to sue a corporation in London for commodities trading fraud. The London company said that the federal courts had no jurisdiction over them, and they could not be served with the suit. The Commodities Exchange Act (CEA) was vague on this point, and the Louisianans came up with several creative arguments to get the Brits into court.

Unanimously, the Supreme Court rejected all of them. Blackmun admitted that the Brits could Constitutionally be hauled into court, but pointed out that a statute still has to authorize it. Turning to the CEA itself, he found no clear grant, and textual analysis suggested that none was intended. Later Congressional action made this even plainer. As a last resort, it was urged that the Supreme Court could create jurisdiction through their magical Common Law power. Blackmun demurred, stating that Common Law rulemaking power did not extend to conferring jurisdiction.

Litigation in this case began in 1980. It’s amazing that both sides were still fighting tooth and nail more than seven years later. While I agree with the Court’s decision, I do want to point out the irony of the London corporation submitting to the Court’s jurisdiction in order to get a ruling that it was not subject to another federal court’s jurisdiction.

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