Carnegie-Mellon Univ. v. Cohill

484 U. S. 343

January 20, 1988

Carnegie-Mellon fires William Boyle, and he gets all sore and sues the University using both federal and state law. Because all the legal questions were related, a federal court would hear the case. Then, Boyle decided to drop the only federal claim. The question was whether the federal court had the power to remand the state claims to state court, or whether it could only dismiss the suit altogether.

With Marshall writing, the Court ruled 5-3 that a remand was possible. He stressed that without a remand, some of the state claims could be barred by the statute of limitations. He admitted that federal statutes did not appear to authorize a remand in these circumstances, but said that courts retained a power to do so anyway in the interest of comity and economy. Marshall pointed out that a federal court’s power to dismiss state claims was totally uncontested, and that dismissal really wasn’t all that different from a remand. A precedent from 1976 was distinguished on the grounds that federal jurisdiction of the state claims had not been required in the first place.

White, joined by Rehnquist and Scalia, dissented. If courts, he argued, really had the inherent power to remand in the interests of economy and comity, then the authorization of remanding in federal statutes was completely superfluous. Worse yet, the majority misrepresented the decade old precedent, which had in fact held that remands not specifically authorized by statute would not be allowed. I have a sinking feeling that White is right, and that this ruling was activism. But you know what? This decision is dang good public policy, and if it was activism, it was good activism.

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