Federal Jurisdiction — Dual Citizen Cannot Invoke Alienage Jurisdiction Absent Diversity

The plaintiff in Frett-Smith v. Vanterpool, 2008 U.S. App. LEXIS 31 (3d Cir. Jan. 3, 2008), held dual citizenship in the U.S. and the British Virgin Islands. Her domicile was in the BVI. She filed a personal injury action against United States citizens domiciled in the Virgin Islands in federal court in the District of the Virgin Islands alleging alienage jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1332(a)(2), relying on her BVI citizenship. (As an American citizen she could not rely on diversity because she had abandoned her domicile in the United States and was thus a stateless U.S. citizen.) Held, an American with dual citizenship cannot rely on her non-U.S. citizenship to attain federal jurisdiction where diversity is otherwise lacking:

[F]or purposes of diversity jurisdiction, only the American nationality of a dual national is recognized. Because [plaintiff] is a United States citizen, her initial reliance on alienage jurisdiction was in error. Furthermore, if Smith was domiciled abroad at the time her Complaint was filed, she would not be a citizen of any state and diversity jurisdiction under § 1332(a)(1) would also fail. Only if [plaintiff] was domiciled in a particular state of the United States at the time the suit was filed, and that state was diverse from that of the [defendants], would subject matter jurisdiction be present.

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