The Exclusive Jurisdiction of the Federal Courts has Expanded.

On November 25, 2015, the President signed a bill into law amending commercial space activities under Title 51, Chapter 509, which deals with commercial space flight activities licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The bill signed by the President covers multiple aspects of commercial space flight, but one of the most interesting facets is Congress’ exercise of its Article III power over the lower federal courts, which it has used to extend the federal courts’ exclusive subject matter jurisdiction. Specifically, 51 USC § 50914(g) extends the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal courts as follows:

Federal jurisdiction.—Any claim by a third party or space flight participant for death, bodily injury, or property damage or loss resulting from an activity carried out under the license shall be the exclusive jurisdiction of the Federal courts.”.

It is significant for practitioners to be aware this amendment to the United States Code increases the federal court’s exclusive subject matter jurisdiction over copyright cases, admiralty cases, lawsuits involving the military, immigration laws, and bankruptcy proceedings to now include commercial space activities under Title 51, Chapter 509.

While New Hampshire does not have a state law regarding commercial space activities nor will it in the foreseeable future, the fact Congress exercised its Article III power is significant in of itself and will affect the viability of the commercial space industry and the manner in which the legal industry interacts with it.

I have written an article about the significance of the expansion of the federal courts’ subject matter jurisdiction.  You can find the article here.


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