LOCATION: PACIFIC GAS & ELECTRIC CO.
DOCKET NO.: 81-1335
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
CITATION: 460 US 462 (1983)
ARGUED: Dec 08, 1982
DECIDED: Mar 23, 1983
Daniel A. Rezneck - on behalf of the Petitioners
Michael F. Healy - on behalf of Respondent Hickey
Robert M. Sussman - on behalf of Respondent Feldman
Facts of the case
Media for District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. FeldmanAudio Transcription for Oral Argument - December 08, 1982 in District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman
Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 23, 1983 in District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman
Warren E. Burger:
The judgment and opinion of the Court in District of Columbia Court of Appeals against Feldman and Hickey will be announced by Justice Brennan.
William J. Brennan, Jr.:
This case is here on certiorari to the Federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
I say Federal Court of Appeals to distinguish that Court from the local Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia which is the top court of the district judiciary.
The District of Columbia requires an applicant for admission to the District of Columbia Bar to be a graduate of a law school approved by the American Bar Association.
And neither the respondents in this case, who are applicant's for admission to the District of Columbia Bar, was graduated from an approved law school and the local District of Columbia Court of Appeals which has the last word on bar admissions in the district, denied the respondent's petitions for waiver of the rule.
Respondents then filed this suit in the United States District Court against the local District of Columbia Court of Appeals, challenging the denial of the waivers and also challenging the constitutionality of the rule.
The District Court dismissed the suit on the ground that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction.
And the Federal Court of Appeals Court of Appeals reversed that dismissal.
We in turn vacate the judgment of the Federal Court of Appeals.
We hold that the United States District Courts have no jurisdiction over challenges to state court decisions and for this purpose, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia is treated like a state court in particular cases arising out of judicial proceedings even if those challenges alleged that the state court's action was unconstitutional.
Review of those decisions maybe had only in this Court.
Thus, to the extent that the respondent sought review in the District Court of the local District of Columbia Court of Appeals' denial of the waivers, they had no -- the District Court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over their complaints.
But United States district courts do have subject-matter jurisdiction over general challenges to state bar rules promulgated by state courts in nonjudicial proceedings, which do not require review of a final state-court judgment in a particular case.
Accordingly, here the District Court did have jurisdiction over the elements of respondents' complaints involving a general attack on the constitutionality of the District of Columbia rule.
The judgment of the Federal Court of Appeals is therefore vacated.
And the case remanded to the District Court for further proceedings consistent with the opinion we have filed today with the clerk.
Justice Stevens dissents and has filed a dissenting opinion.
Warren E. Burger:
Thank you Justice Brennan.