Aldinger v. Howard

LOCATION:District Attorney’s Office, County of Los Angeles

DOCKET NO.: 74-6521
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1975-1981)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 427 US 1 (1976)
ARGUED: Mar 24, 1976
DECIDED: Jun 24, 1976

Donald C. Brockett – for respondents
Norman Rosenberg – for petitioner

Facts of the case


Media for Aldinger v. Howard

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument – March 24, 1976 in Aldinger v. Howard

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement – June 24, 1976 in Aldinger v. Howard

William H. Rehnquist:

The number 74-6521, Aldinger against Howard, comes to us on certiorari from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

In this case, petitioner Aldinger claimed she had been unconstitutionally discharged from her job in the office of respondent, the Treasurer of Spokane County, Washington, pursued in the District Court against respondent under Section 1983 of Title 42 of the US code, rested on the cogent jurisdictional statute, Section 1343.

But she also asserted a state law claim of vicarious tort liability against an additional defendant, Spokane County, although, Congress had excluded such municipal corporations from those parties who could be sued under Section 1983.

The lower courts rejected petitioner’s claim that this Court’s doctrine of Pendent Jurisdiction allowed her to join Spokane County in this manner as a Pendent party and we granted certiorari to resolve the conflict among the Courts of Appeals on this point.

Our prior decisions, dating back to 1824, have consistently held that where a plaintiff and a defendant are already properly in Federal Court, litigating a federal claim, the defendant could be called upon to answer the plaintiff’s related non federal claim consistently with Article III of the Constitution.

But we hold in an opinion filed today with the clerk that it is quite a different matter to allow a plaintiff to implead an entirely new defendant solely for the purpose of asserting a state law claim.

Since neither that defendant, nor that claim would otherwise be heard by the Federal Court.

In this case, we think the fact that Congress has, by reference, excluded parties such as Spokane County from being sued under Section 1983, requires us to hold that the Pendent party jurisdiction asserted by petitioner here is not within the jurisdiction of the federal court and we therefore affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

Mr. Justice Brennan has filed a dissenting opinion in which Mr. Justice Marshall and Mr. Justice Blackmun have joined.