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Notre Dame Law Review Online


constitutional law, claims, state court, federal court, Supreme Court, supplemental jurisdiction


On January 22, 2018, the Supreme Court issued Artis v. District of Columbia. A true "clash of the titans," this 5-4 decision featured colorful comments on both sides, claims of "absurdities," uncited use of Alice in Wonderland vocabulary ("curiouser," anyone?), and an especially harsh accusation by the dissent that "we’ve wandered so far from the idea of a federal government of limited and enumerated powers that we’ve begun to lose sight of what it looked like in the first place."

One might assume that the issue in question was a complex constitutional provision, or a dense, technical federal code section. Far from it. The sole issue in Artis was the interpretation of 28 U.S.C. § 1367(d), an obscure tolling provision dealing with the time period allowed for plaintiffs who filed their claims in federal court and were dismissed to refile their claims in state court. The majority—authored by Justice Ginsburg and joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan—provided a generous interpretation, allowing plaintiffs some more time to refile. The dissent—authored by Justice Gorsuch and joined by Justices Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito—thought that, in most cases, plaintiffs should receive no more than thirty days to refile.

This Comment does not follow the many constitutional and jurisprudential intricacies of this fascinating battle. Instead, it intends to point to what seems to be a glaring misunderstanding of the majority opinion by the dissent. This Comment also raises the possibility that the majority itself did not understand the full implications of its own opinion, as evidenced by its response to the dissent. If this is indeed the state of affairs, an inevitable question arises: What did the Court actually say in Artis v. District of Columbia?