Embassy Law Web Log   
Washington, DC, USA      

U.S. Federal Courts and Subject-Matter Jurisdiction

On November 30, 2017, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia dis­missed the case Jimenez v. Colombian State for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The plaintiffs consist of three Ecuadorian citizens who filed a complaint against Co­lom­bia, accusing the government of Columbia of denying the fundamental human rights of Plaintiffs Prado Alava and Vera Calderón in violation of a peace deal between the government and the allgedly subversive group FARC-EP. The plaintiffs asked that the court study and evaluate this case.

United States federal courts have limited jurisdiction and are only able to hear cases based on whether or not the court has subject-matter jurisdiction. Therefore, the court was unable to review this case. The court does not have the ability to enforce the peace treaty that the plaintiffs referred to, and thus could not rule in either par­ty's favour. The only means by which subject-matter jurisdiction can arise is under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. However, it noted, the plaintiffs have cited no applicable exception under the FSIA.

The court stated that the complaint was therefore patently insubstantial, presenting no federal question suitable for decision. The case was dismissed following precedent from Evans v. Suter, 2010 WL 1632902(D.C. Cir. 2010), which states that a district court may dismiss a complaint sua sponte prior to service on the defendants pur­su­ant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(h)(3) when, as here, it is evident that the court lacks sub­ject-matter jurisdiction. -- Madeline Henshaw-Greene, Legal Assistant, Berliner Corcoran & Rowe LLP, Washington, DC.