Moor v. County of Alameda

RESPONDENT: County of Alameda
LOCATION: Allegheny County District Court

DOCKET NO.: 72-10
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1972-1975)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 411 US 693 (1973)
ARGUED: Feb 27, 1973
DECIDED: May 14, 1973

Peter W. Davis - for respondents
Ronald M. Greenberg - for petitioners

Facts of the case


Media for Moor v. County of Alameda

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - February 27, 1973 in Moor v. County of Alameda

Warren E. Burger:

We'll hear arguments next in number 72-10, Moor against Alameda, the County of Alameda.

Mr. Greenberg, you may proceed whenever you are ready.

Ronald M. Greenberg:

Mr. Chief Justice and may it please the Court.

For purposes of this appeal, the facts are not really in dispute in this case.

What happened essentially is that on May 15, 1969, our clients, David Moor in one case and the plaintiff William Donovan Rundle, Jr. in the other case were shot by an Alameda County Deputy Sheriff in connection with the People’s Park disturbances in Berkeley.

Subsequently, a suit was filed, actually two suits against the Deputy that shot our clients, his superior officers for their own acts and the County of Alameda.

The concern here is only with that aspect of the case against the County of Alameda.

What's involved here are three separate and distinct concepts of federal jurisdiction.

The first is Civil Rights Acts jurisdiction, the second, pendent jurisdiction and the third, diversity jurisdiction.

The diversity jurisdiction issue relates only to the Moor case.

It has no application whatsoever to the Rundle case.

Of these three issues, we would submit that the clearest example of error by the Court below is in connection with its ruling on the diversity issue.

For over 100 years, this Court, Courts of Appeals, District Courts and at least two District Courts within the Ninth Circuit have consistently held that political subdivisions of a state such as the County of Alameda are considered citizens of the state for diversity jurisdiction purposes.

For some unexplained reason, we have the rather anomalous result that with respect to California counties, they are presently not considered citizens of California for diversity jurisdiction purposes.

William H. Rehnquist:

Mr. Greenberg, is it your position that, that is a nationwide rule in effect that regardless of the relationship of a county to a particular state, it should be one rule throughout the country?

Ronald M. Greenberg:

Barring at least a circumstance which would show that the state is in essence, the real party in interest in the case is correct and I can't think of a political subdivision such as a county in any state in the union where that would be the case.

Consistently, in every case we have researched on the point, it has always been that the county is separate and distinct from the state.

Taking this case for example, anyone who is familiar with California Law and California politics would have to concede, that the state of California is not the real party in interest in this case, no liability is being sought against it.

If we procure a judgment, it won't be liable for it.

Indeed, it's not even a party and interest, let alone a real party in interest.

So, for those reasons, I would urge on the Court that even if we are successful with respect to the Civil Rights Acts jurisdiction contention or the pendent jurisdiction aspect or both, that Court also reversed the diversity aspect jurisdiction holding.

I know for a fact that it has had serious effect for example, on out of state contractors, who wish to sue counties upon which, with which they contract in the state.

As a result, of the holding in this Court, there is diversity jurisdiction.

County is not a citizen and there is just no explanation given for that --

Potter Stewart:

This was always kind of an off-hand casual way I gather, the Ninth Circuit originating with a brief opinion by the late District Judge Mathis that was accepted by the Ninth Circuit and then everything else was built on that?

Ronald M. Greenberg:

There are really only two opinions by the Ninth Circuit that even enunciate that point.

One is the Miller case which was a pro per case and then our case in which it was cited as authority.

I think, one could search both of those opinions in vain to find any reasoned analysis as to why in essence, the court feels that the state of California is somehow the real party in interest in our case and that's really what you have to conclude, to conclude it's a state agency.

Potter Stewart:

In other cases and you are quite correct in my understanding that there are many of them which do hold that a county is a citizen for diversity purposes.

Is there any analysis of the particular relationship between the County and the State in the --?