Federal question problem set: questions

Instructions: Unless otherwise indicated, assume that all matters take place in federal court. You may further assume that Paul and Debbie are both citizens of Florida. Unless the question expressly indicates, assume that all questions stand on their own. Do not look at the explanations until you have completed the problem set.

Question 1: Concurrent federal questions.

May a suit for federal trademark infringement be filed in state court? See 28 U.S.C. § 1338(a).

Question 2: Exclusive federal questions.

May a complaint for patent infringement be filed in state court?

Question 3. No diversity?

Paul (Florida) sues Debbie (Florida) in Florida federal court for copyright infringement. Paul seeks statutory damages of $750. Debbie moves to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Should the court grant the motion?

Question 4. Well pleaded-complaint I: federal defense.

For purposes of this question, assume that there is a federal law – The TV Chef Protection Act (“TCPA”) – that gives a defense of immunity from suits in tort to television chefs who provide recipes on television shows such as those on the Food Network. Debbie is a famous chef and the host of her own TV show on the Food Network. Paul decides to prepare a recipe from Debbie’s show for chicken cacciatore. Unfortunately, Paul gets food poisoning because the recipe gave a too-low suggested temperature for the cooking of the chicken. Soon afterwards, Paul sues Debbie in federal court, alleging that Debbie’s recipe negligently listed a too-low temperature for cooking of chicken. Paul further alleges that the TCPA does not provide Debbie with immunity, and further, that it is an unconstitutional exercise of Congress’ powers under the Commerce Clause. Does the federal court have subject-matter jurisdiction?

Question 5. Well-pleaded complaint II: counterclaim.

Paul sues Debbie in state court asserting a claim for breach of contract. Debbie counterclaims for federal patent infringement. May the state court hear the entire case?

Question 6. Well-pleaded complaint III: declaratory judgment.

Paul (who runs a popular file-sharing service at http://www.SoSueMeMP3.com) receives a “nastygram” (a cease-and-desist letter) from Debbie, who claims that Paul’s website infringes her many copyrighted songs. Paul sues Debbie in federal court seeking a declaratory judgment that Paul is not infringing Debbie’s copyrights. Is there federal question jurisdiction over Paul’s suit?

Question 7. Scope of statutory versus Article III jurisdiction.

If the anticipated federal defense in Mottley did not support original federal district court jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, how could the Supreme Court decide the merits of the federal defense in a later appeal of the same dispute from state court?

Question 8. FQ: federal statutory cause of action.

Paul (Florida) sues Debbie (Florida), a police officer, for beating him up. He files suit for deprivation of his civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, which permits suits against state actors who deprive somebody of their constitutional rights while acting under color of state law. Debbie argues that federal jurisdiction is inappropriate because battery is a state-law cause of action and Paul is merely trying to clothe his battery claim as a federal question. Is Debbie right?

Question 9. FQ: federal implied (or common law) right of action.

Paul becomes sick after drinking wine made by Debbie, a local winemaker. Paul sues Debbie in federal court under a federal regulatory statute that provides labeling requirements for wine. Paul’s complaint admits that the regulatory statute does not contain an express right of action, but nonetheless alleges that a private federal right of action should be inferred from the statute. Paul further alleges that Debbie’s wines failed to meet the standard of the regulatory statute and that her violation makes Debbie liable to Paul for his damages. Debbie argues that no federal court has ever implied a private right of action under this statute and that the federal court should therefore dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. What should the court do?

Question 10. FQ: state-law claim with federal ingredients.

For purposes of this question, assume that the Supreme Court has previously held that the federal regulatory statute discussed in the previous question does not provide an implied federal right of action. Paul becomes sick after drinking wine made by Debbie, a local winemaker. Paul sues Debbie for negligence under state law in state court. Paul’s complaint alleges that a federal regulatory statute provides the requirements for wine labels and that Debbie’s wines did not meet this standard. He alleges that the federal regulatory statute provides the element of duty for his state-law negligence claim and that violation of that duty was negligence per se. Debbie removes on the basis of a federal question. Paul moves to remand, arguing that his cause of action does not arise under federal law. What should the court do?

Added Oct. 12, 2014