The Supreme Court affirmed the Ninth Circuit. It determined that plaintiff's state claim against the county raised an issue not considered in Gibbs, namely: "whether a non-federal claim could . . . be the basis for joining a party over whom no independent basis for federal jurisdiction exists, simply because the claim could be derived from the 'common nucleus of operative fact' giving rise to the dispute between the parties to the federal claim." Aldinger, 427 U.S. at 9. The Court decided not to formulate any "general, all-encompassing jurisdictional rule" regarding the exercise of pendent-party jurisdiction, but focused on what it viewed as the factual and legal differences between the type of pendent jurisdiction authorized in Gibbs -- basically what we now consider somewhat ordinary exercises of pendent jurisdiction over the state-based claims of parties to a lawsuit based primarily on federal law -- and the pendent-party questions raised in Aldinger. See Aldinger, 427 U.S. at 13-14.
Fundamental to the Court's analysis in Aldinger was what it perceived as the essential legal difference between ordinary pendent jurisdiction and pendent-party jurisdiction. In determining whether the joinder of an otherwise unreachable party should be accomplished through pendent jurisdiction, the Supreme Court concluded that courts should consider "whether by virtue of the statutory grant of subject-matter jurisdiction, upon which [plaintiff's] principal claim against the [defendant] rests, Congress has addressed itself to the party as to whom jurisdiction pendent to the principal claim is sought." Aldinger, 427 U.S. at 16 (emphasis in original). In other words, the courts are to deduce, through an examination of relevant statutes, "whether Congress wanted to grant this sort of jurisdiction to federal courts." Id. at 17.
Applying this analysis, the Court held that Congress had declined by implication to extend federal jurisdiction over municipal corporations like Spokane County. The Court based its holding on "a fair reading of the language used in § 1343, together with the scope of § 1983," which it interpreted as barring the use of pendent-party jurisdiction to accomplish the joinder of municipal corporations -- parties that, according to the prevailing interpretation of the statute, Congress had explicitly excluded from liability.
Stated another way, the Court viewed Ms. Aldinger's effort to join the county as a pendent party to her federal action as an unwarranted attempt to expand the class of defendants who were potentially subject to the federal court's jurisdiction under § 1343(a)(3). In holding as it did, the Supreme Court concluded that the lower federal courts should not use their power of pendent jurisdiction to facilitate such an expansion.
At least in terms of its posture, the instant case presents a situation different from the one faced by the Supreme Court in Aldinger. In this case, Mr. Washco has brought a valid federal civil rights claim against a group of defendants. The proposed pendent party is Mrs. Washco, who seeks to litigate a state claim against a non-diverse defendant already named in her son's lawsuit. It is therefore not an unwilling defendant who would be brought into court through the proposed exercise of pendent jurisdiction, but a willing plaintiff who, under normal circumstances, would not be entitled to a federal forum. Because the two claims arise from a common nucleus of operative fact, the court has constitutional power under Article III to hear Mrs. Washco's claim -- assuming that Congress intended such an exercise of jurisdiction -- and the proposed joinder in some circumstances could serve judicial economy.
Despite these differences in posture, however, it is fair to conclude that Congress did not authorize the federal courts to hear claims like Mrs. Washco's. The remedy provided by § 1983 is available to a specific class of plaintiffs -- those who have suffered deprivations of their constitutional rights under color of state law. See Monroe v. Pape, 365 U.S. 167, 5 L. Ed. 2d 492, 81 S. Ct. 473 (1960). In order to recover under the statute, a plaintiff must establish that there was a violation of the underlying constitutional right and that the defendant was cloaked with state authority. See Daniels v. Williams, 474 U.S. 327, 330, 88 L. Ed. 2d 662, 106 S. Ct. 662 (1985). The Supreme Court has expressed its interest in clearly delineating the scope of § 1983, so that its remedy -- and, by implication, access to the federal courts -- will not be available to plaintiffs whose injuries are not of a constitutional dimension.
This interpretation of § 1983's scope is consistent with, in the Aldinger majority's words, "the well-established principle that federal courts, as opposed to state trial courts, are courts of limited jurisdiction marked out by Congress." Aldinger, 427 U.S. at 15. The federalism concerns underlying this principle in large part explain other Supreme Court decisions that require strict adherence to jurisdictional prerequisites that restrict the reach of the federal courts with respect to matters traditionally governed by state law. See, e.g., Owen Equipment v. Kroger, 437 U.S. 365, 374, 57 L. Ed. 2d 274, 98 S. Ct. 2396 (1978)(no pendent-party jurisdiction over a plaintiff's claims against a third-party defendant where exercise of jurisdiction would destroy diversity between all plaintiffs and all defendants); Zahn v. International Paper, 414 U.S. 291, 300, 38 L. Ed. 2d 511, 94 S. Ct. 505 (1973)(all members of a class certified under rule 23 must meet the jurisdictional limit in diversity cases).
The use of pendent-party jurisdiction as a general matter to join plaintiffs like Mrs. Washco in § 1983 cases would expand significantly the class of plaintiffs who have access to the federal courts through civil rights actions. Under Mrs. Washco's interpretation of the statute, § 1343 would allow a court to adjudicate any and all claims asserted by any purported plaintiff simply because they arose from the common nucleus of operative fact that produced one plaintiff's legitimate civil rights claim. Such an interpretation of § 1343 would not only expand the set of claims that could be asserted in § 1983 actions, but it would also significantly expand federal judicial intervention in areas of state law. Such an expansion of federal judicial authority would seem at odds with the Supreme Court's reading of Congressional intention in Aldinger.
Accordingly, defendant Galli's motion to dismiss count V will be granted. As to the remainder of the amended complaint, defendants' motion will be denied and plaintiff John Washco will be allowed to proceed on counts I through IV. An appropriate order follows.
For the reasons set forth in the accompanying memorandum, it is hereby ORDERED and DIRECTED that defendants' motion to dismiss counts 1 through 4 of the amended complaint is DENIED and that defendant Galli's motion to dismiss count 5 is GRANTED.