The Demise of “Drive-by Jurisdictional Rulings”

Wasserman, Howard M. | January 14, 2011

In an October 2009 Term marked by several significant constitutional rulings, the Supreme Court quietly continued an important multi-term effort towards defining which legal rules properly should be called “jurisdictional.” In each of four cases that considered the issue, the Court unanimously rejected a jurisdictional characterization of the challenged legal rule. These cases continue an almost uninterrupted retreat from the Court’s admittedly “profligate” and “less than meticulous” use of the term. The Court now rejects “drive-by jurisdictional rulings,” in which a legal rule has been labeled as jurisdictional only through “unrefined” analysis, without rigorous consideration of the label’s meaning or consequence.