Civil Procedure

By Woodworth, Jaclyn N. | Suffolk University Law Review, Spring 2009 | Go to article overview

Civil Procedure


Woodworth, Jaclyn N., Suffolk University Law Review


Complaint Amending Jurisdictional Basis Given Effect When Filed as a Matter of Right--ConnectU L.L.C. v. Zuckerberg, 522 F.3d 82 (1st Cir. 2008)

Rule 8(a) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires a plaintiff to plead the basis for the court's jurisdiction in his or her complaint. (1) Rule 15(a) allows a plaintiff to amend his or her complaint as a matter of right, provided that the defendant has not previously served a responsive pleading. (2) In ConnectU L.L.C. v. Zuckerberg, (3) the First Circuit considered in a matter of first impression whether an amended complaint that switches from diversity of citizenship jurisdiction to federal question jurisdiction is effective when filed as of right prior to any jurisdictional challenge. (4) The court held that the jurisdictional claim in the amended complaint conferred jurisdiction because it superseded and replaced the original complaint. (5)

Harvard students Tyler Winklevoss, Cameron Winklevoss, and Divya Narendra (the Founders) planned to create a social networking Web site for college students. (6) The Founders asked Mark Zuckerberg, another Harvard student who was skilled in programming, to aid them in the technical development of their Web site, to which Zuckerberg agreed. (7) According to the Founders, Zuckerberg stole their idea, business plan, and unfinished source code and launched a competing social networking Web site, thefacebook.com (Facebook). (8) By the time the Founders launched their own site, connectU.com, Facebook already had a tremendous amount of user traffic, which made it very difficult for the Founders to compete. (9)

On September 2, 2004, ConnectU LLC (ConnectU) filed a diversity action in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts against Zuckerberg and five other defendants. (10) On October 28, 2004, ConnectU filed an amended complaint that added a federal-law claim for copyright infringement and premised jurisdiction solely on the existence of a federal question.11 ConnectU served the amended complaint after registering a copyright for its source code and before Zuckerberg filed a responsive pleading. (12)

Almost one year later, Zuckerberg moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, contending that the original complaint failed to allege complete diversity of citizenship and that the amendment was therefore invalid. (13) The district court agreed that diversity of citizenship did not exist at the time of filing and dismissed the case for lack of jurisdiction. (14) On appeal, the First Circuit reversed the dismissal and held that the district court clearly erred in looking to the original complaint for purposes of determining jurisdiction. (15)

Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure sets forth the rules that control amendments to complaints. (16) Rule 15(a) permits a party to amend its complaint "[o]nce as a matter of course" at any time before the opposing party serves a responsive pleading. (17) Once a party files an amended complaint, the amended complaint supersedes the original complaint, making the latter obsolete. (18) Rule 15(c) permits a plaintiff to avoid the preclusive effect of a statute of limitations by relating back the amendment to the time of filing of the original complaint. (19) The relation back doctrine, however, does not cure jurisdictional defects in an earlier pleading. (20)

A party asserting diversity jurisdiction must show that such diversity existed at the time of filing. (21) Diversity jurisdiction requires complete diversity, which means that no plaintiff may be a citizen of the same state as any defendant. (22) Federal courts determine such citizenship based on the filing date of the complaint. (23) In Grupo Dataflux v. Atlas Global Group, (24) the Court reaffirmed this principle, known as the time-of-filing rule, holding that a party's postfiling change in citizenship cannot cure a lack of diversity subject matter jurisdiction in the original filing. …

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