Diversity Jurisdiction In Hawaii Federal Court

Proudly Serving Honolulu, Maui, Kauai and the Big Island

Today we had a hearing concerning diversity jurisdiction. In general, federal courts only have jurisdiction over two types of cases; (i) cases concerning a federal question (meaning that the case is based on federal law), and (ii) diversity cases. § 28 U.S.C. , § 28 U.S.C. .

For the federal court to have diversity jurisdiction over a case there must be two elements met; (i) the controversy must “exceed the sum of $75,000, exclusive of interests and costs” and (ii) be between “citizens of different states” or “citizens of a State and citizens or subjects of a foreign state” § 28 U.S.C. . Diversity of the parties requires that the plaintiffs and the defendants are from different states or countries. None of the plaintiffs can be “domiciled” in the same state or country of any of the defendants. Therefore, the threshold question in many cases become how do you determine a person’s “domicile.”

There are two things that are required in determining a person’s domicile, (i) where the person is residing and (ii) whether the person intends to live there. Many factors can come into play like “current residence, voting registration and voting practices, location of personal and real property, location of brokerage and bank accounts, location of spouse and family, membership in unions and other organizations, place of employment or business, driver’s license and automobile registration, and payment of taxes.” Lew v Moss, 797 F2d 747, 749-750 (C.A.9., 1986). If the facts show that a person lives in a state or country and intends to stay there by meeting some of the factors mentioned above then that person will be deemed to be a domicile of that place for the purposes of determining diversity jurisdiction. If you are a plaintiff and your “domicile” state is not the same as any of the defendants (and your claim meets the jurisdictional minimum of $75,000), then the federal court likely has jurisdiction to hear your case.