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Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp.

Supreme Court of the United States

February 23, 2005, Argued ; March 30, 2005, Decided

No. 03-1696

Opinion

 [*283]  [**1521]   Justice Ginsburg delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case concerns what has come to be known as the Rooker-Feldman doctrine, applied by this Court only twice, first in  Rooker v. Fidelity Trust Co., 263 U.S. 413, 68 L. Ed. 362, 44 S. Ct. 149 (1923), then, 60 years later, in  District of Columbia Court of Appeals v. Feldman, 460 U.S. 462, 75 L. Ed. 2d 206, 103 S. Ct. 1303 (1983). Variously interpreted in the lower courts, the doctrine has sometimes been construed to extend far beyond the contours of the Rooker and Feldman cases, overriding Congress' conferral of federal-court jurisdiction concurrent with jurisdiction exercised by state courts, and superseding the ordinary application of  [***461]  preclusion law [****9]  pursuant to 28 USC § 1738 [28 USCS § 1738]. See, e.g.,  Moccio v. New York State Office of Court Admin., 95 F.3d 195, 199-200 (CA2 1996).

Rooker was a suit commenced in Federal District Court to have a judgment of a state court, adverse to the federal court plaintiffs, "declared null and void."  263 U.S., at 414, 68 L. Ed. 362, 44 S. Ct. 149. In Feldman, parties unsuccessful in the District of Columbia Court of Appeals (the District's highest court) commenced a federal-court action against the very court that had rejected their applications. Holding the federal suits impermissible, we emphasized that appellate jurisdiction to reverse or modify a state-court judgment is lodged, initially by § 25 of the Judiciary Act of 1789, 1 Stat 85, and now by 28 U.S.C. § 1257 [28 USCS § 1257], exclusively in this Court. Federal district courts, we noted, are empowered to exercise original, not appellate, jurisdiction. Plaintiffs in Rooker and Feldman had litigated and lost in state court. Their federal complaints, we observed, essentially invited federal courts of first instance to review and reverse unfavorable state-court judgments. We  [*284]  declared such suits [****10]  out of bounds, i.e., properly dismissed for want of subject-matter jurisdiction.

] The  Rooker- Feldman doctrine, we hold today, is confined to cases of the kind from which the doctrine acquired its name: cases brought by state-court losers complaining of injuries caused by state-court [**1522]  judgments rendered before the district court proceedings commenced and inviting district court review and rejection of those judgments. Rooker-Feldman does not otherwise override or supplant preclusion doctrine or augment the circumscribed doctrines that allow federal courts to stay or dismiss proceedings in deference to state-court actions.

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544 U.S. 280 *; 125 S. Ct. 1517 **; 161 L. Ed. 2d 454 ***; 2005 U.S. LEXIS 2929 ****; 73 U.S.L.W. 4266; 18 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 206

EXXON MOBIL CORPORATION, EXXON CHEMICAL ARABIA, INC., and MOBIL YANBU PETROCHEMICAL COMPANY, INC., Petitioners v. SAUDI BASIC INDUSTRIES CORPORATION

Prior History:  [****1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE THIRD CIRCUIT.

 Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Indus. Corp., 364 F.3d 102, 2004 U.S. App. LEXIS 5485 (3d Cir. N.J., 2004)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.

CORE TERMS

state-court, state court, district court, federal court, federal district court, federal action, subject-matter, proceedings, judgments, federal suit, preclusion, litigated, petitions, parties, cases, subsidiaries

Civil Procedure, Preclusion of Judgments, Full Faith & Credit, General Overview, Judgments, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Federal Questions, Diversity Jurisdiction, Alienage Jurisdiction, Jurisdiction, Jurisdiction on Certiorari, Considerations Governing Review, State Court Decisions, Jurisdiction Over Actions, Concurrent Jurisdiction, Full Faith & Credit Statutes, Defenses, Demurrers & Objections, Affirmative Defenses, Res Judicata