Federal jurisdiction is authorized where there is a suit between a citizen of a state and citizens or subjects of a foreign state. 28 U.S.C.S. § 1332(a)(2). Federal jurisdiction is also authorized in suits between citizens of different states in which citizens of foreign countries are additional parties. Section 1332(a)(3). However, under long-held precedent, diversity must be "complete." A diversity suit may not be maintained in federal court by an alien against a citizen of a state and a citizen of some other foreign country.
Citizens of Nigeria commenced a personal injury action against a taxicab company and taxi driver based on an automobile accident alleged to have occurred in the District of Columbia. In their suit, they invoked federal court jurisdiction on the basis of alienage. The taxicab company filed a motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter, contending that the requisite diversity of citizenship had not been asserted. The taxicab company pointed out that the Nigerians failed to allege the citizenship of the taxi driver. The Nigerians failed to respond to the motion in a timely fashion, and the district court granted the motion.
Can the Nigerians invoke federal court jurisdiction on the basis of alienage?
The courtheld that alienage jurisdiction was improper in light of the fact that the Nigerian's counsel represented at oral argument that defendant taxi driver was a citizen of Ghana. It reiterated that a diversity suit could not be maintained in federal court by an alien against a citizen of a state and a citizen of some other foreign country.