Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Severability
Think back to middle school math. You likely learned the phrase, Please excuse my dear Aunt Sally. This mnemonic device was used to teach the order of operations for math questions: (1) Parentheses, (2) exponents, (3) multiplication, (4) division, (5) addition, (6) subtraction. (Not to be confused with My very educated mother just served us nine pizzas, to remember the then-nine planets in the Solar System).
At least in math, people agree on the correct order in which problems should be tackled. Alas, there is no such uniformity in the law. You would think that a complaint must survive a predictable gauntlet: (1) jurisdiction, (2) prudential doctrines, (3) merits questions, (4) remedies, etc. But the Supreme Court has routinely authorized courts to consider issues out of order. For example, under the Ruhrgas/Sinochem doctrine any “nonmerits threshold question[s]” may warrant “dismissal short of reaching the merits.”
For example, let’s say a case presents a thorny jurisdictional question, but the Plaintiff is outside the “zone of
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