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Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am.

Supreme Court of the United States

March 1, 1994, Argued ; May 16, 1994, Decided

No. 93-263


 [*376]   [***394]   [**1674]  JUSTICE SCALIA delivered the opinion of the Court.

 After respondent Guardian Life Insurance Company 2 terminated petitioner's general agency agreement, petitioner brought suit in California  [***395]  Superior Court alleging various state-law claims. Respondent removed the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California on the basis of diversity jurisdiction and filed state-law counterclaims. After closing arguments but before the District Judge instructed the  [**1675]  jury, the parties arrived at an oral agreement settling all claims and counterclaims, the substance of which they recited, on the record, before the District Judge in chambers. In April 1992, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 41(a)(1)(ii), the parties executed a  [*377]  Stipulation and Order of Dismissal with Prejudice, dismissing the complaint and cross-complaint. On April 13, the District Judge signed the Stipulation and Order under the notation "It is so ordered."  [****5]  The Stipulation and Order did not reserve jurisdiction in the District Court to enforce the settlement agreement; indeed, it did not so much as refer to the settlement agreement.

Thereafter the parties disagreed on petitioner's obligation to return certain files to respondent under the settlement agreement. On May 21, respondent moved in the District Court to enforce the agreement, which petitioner opposed on the ground, inter alia, that the court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction. The District Court entered an enforcement order, asserting an "inherent power" to do so. Order Enforcing Settlement (ED Cal., Aug. 19, 1992), App. 180. Petitioner appealed, relying solely on his jurisdictional objection. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed, quoting its opinion in  [****6]  Wilkinson v. FBI, 922 F.2d 555, 557 (1991), to the effect that after dismissal of an action pursuant to a settlement agreement, a "'district court [has] jurisdiction to decide the [enforcement] motion[] under its inherent supervisory power.'" App. to Pet. for Cert. A-5 (Apr. 27, 1993) (unpublished), judgt. order reported at 993 F.2d 883 (1993) (final brackets in original). We granted certiorari, 510 U.S. 930 (1993).

 ] Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction. They possess only that power authorized by Constitution and statute, see Willy v. Coastal Corp., 503 U.S. 131, 136-137, 117 L. Ed. 2d 280, 112 S. Ct. 1076 (1992); Bender v. Williamsport Area School Dist., 475 U.S. 534, 541, 89 L. Ed. 2d 501, 106 S. Ct. 1326 (1986), which is not to be expanded by judicial decree, American Fire & Casualty Co. v. Finn, 341 U.S. 6, 95 L. Ed. 702, 71 S. Ct. 534 (1951). [****7]  It is to be presumed that a cause lies outside this limited jurisdiction, Turner v. Bank of North-America, 4 U.S. 8, 4 Dall. 8, 11, 1 L. Ed. 718 (1799), and the burden of establishing the contrary rests upon the party asserting jurisdiction, McNutt v. General Motors Acceptance Corp., 298 U.S. 178, 182-183, 80 L. Ed. 1135, 56 S. Ct. 780 (1936).

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511 U.S. 375 *; 114 S. Ct. 1673 **; 128 L. Ed. 2d 391 ***; 1994 U.S. LEXIS 3767 ****; 62 U.S.L.W. 4313; 29 Fed. R. Serv. 3d (Callaghan) 1; 94 Cal. Daily Op. Service 3453; 94 Daily Journal DAR 6508; 8 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 93



Disposition: 993 F.2d 883, reversed and remanded.


settlement agreement, settlement, parties, ancillary jurisdiction, district court, proceedings, courts

Civil Procedure, Jurisdiction, Jurisdictional Sources, Constitutional Sources, General Overview, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Jurisdiction Over Actions, Limited Jurisdiction, Business & Corporate Compliance, Contracts Law, Contract Formation, Execution & Delivery, Settlement Agreements, Enforcement, Dismissal, Voluntary Dismissals, Stipulations, Settlements, Supplemental Jurisdiction, Ancillary Jurisdiction, Types of Contracts, Settlement Agreements, Contracts Law, Contract Conditions & Provisions