well-pleaded complaint rule

noun
well-plead·ed complaint rule

Legal Definition of well-pleaded complaint rule 

: a rule of procedure that federal question jurisdiction cannot be acquired over a case unless an issue of federal law appears on the face of a properly pleaded complaint

Note: The well-pleaded complaint rule is not satisfied by a defense based on federal law, including a defense of federal preemption, or by anticipation of such a defense in the complaint.

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