Willy v. Coastal Corp., 503 U.S. 131, 5 (1992)

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Cite as: 503 U. S. 131 (1992)

Opinion of the Court

ceptions and indicates a clear intent to have the Rules, including Rule 11, apply to all district court civil proceedings.1

But in Sibbach v. Wilson & Co., 312 U. S. 1 (1941), we observed that federal courts, in adopting rules, were not free to extend or restrict the jurisdiction conferred by a statute. Id., at 10. Such a caveat applies a fortiori to any effort to extend by rule the judicial power of the United States described in Article III of the Constitution. The Rules, then, must be deemed to apply only if their application will not impermissibly expand the judicial authority conferred by Article III. We must therefore examine petitioner's second, and related contention, that the District Court action in this case lies outside the range of action constitutionally permitted to an Article III court.

Petitioner begins by pointing out that Article III limits the subject-matter jurisdiction of the federal courts to certain "cases or controversies." Brief for Petitioner 11. He then contends that the District Court's exercise of judicial power to grant Rule 11 sanctions must have been an unconstitutional act because, in the absence of subject-matter ju-1 Rule 11 requires that every paper filed with the District Court be signed by an attorney or by the party. The signature constitutes a certificate by the signer that "to the best of the signer's knowledge, information, and belief formed after reasonable inquiry it is well grounded in fact and is warranted by existing law or a good faith argument for the extension, modification, or reversal of existing law, and that it is not interposed for any improper purpose, such as to harass or to cause unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation."

A pleading determined to be in contravention of the Rule subjects both the signer and the party he represents to "an appropriate sanction, which may include an order to pay to the other party or parties the amount of the reasonable expenses incurred because of the filing of the pleading, motion, or other paper, including a reasonable attorney's fee." Ibid. We take as given that the District Court correctly determined that petitioner's filings were insufficiently well grounded to satisfy the Rule, the payment of attorney's fees was a reasonable sanction in response, and the imposition of joint and several liability was appropriate.


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