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Marshall v. Marshall

Docket No.: 04-1544
Certiorari Granted: Sep 27 2005
Argued: February 28, 2006
Decided: May 1, 2006

Topics:

Judicial Power, Jurisdiction of Federal Courts

PartyNames: Vickie Lynn Marshall v. E. Pierce Marshall
Petitioner: Vickie Lynn Marshall
Respondent: E. Pierce Marshall

Court Below: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

Vickie Lynn Marshall
v.
E. Pierce Marshall
547 U.S. 293 (2006)
Background:

In Markham v. Allen, 326 U.S. 490, 494 (1946), this Court held that Congress did not confer on the federal courts jurisdiction to "probate a will or administer an estate." In the intervening sixty years, some federal circuits have hewn closely to Markham, while others have significantly expanded the scope of the so-called "probate exception," holding that it ousts otherwise proper federal jurisdiction even over claims between parties that are "ancillary" or "related" to probate. Here, the Court of Appeals aligned itself with circuits that have broadly applied the probate exception, holding that although bankruptcy jurisdiction over petitioner's claim was otherwise proper under 28 U.S.C. § 1334, that jurisdiction could not be exercised because petitioner's claim was "probate related." These decisions represent an irreconcilable split among the circuits over the scope of the probate exception. Accordingly, the questions presented are:

Question Presented:

1. What is the scope of the probate exception to federal jurisdiction? 2. Did Congress intend the probate exception to apply where a federal court is not asked to probate a will, administer an estate, or otherwise assume control of property in the custody of a state probate court? 3. Did Congress intend the probate exception to apply to cases arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States (28 U.S.C. § 1331), including the Bankruptcy Code (28 U.S.C. § 1334), or is it limited to cases in which jurisdiction is based on diversity of citizenship? 4. Did Congress intend the probate exception to apply to cases arising out of trusts, or is it limited to cases involving wills?

Question:

(1) What is the scope of the "probate exception" to federal jurisdiction? (2) Does the exception apply to cases that do not directly involve the administration of a will or estate?

Holding: reversed and remanded
Vote: 9-0
Opinion By:
Read MARSHALL V. MARSHALL opinion (PDF)
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