Law School Discussion

Erie Doctrine, help me master this sucker before my final

Erie Doctrine, help me master this sucker before my final
« on: December 05, 2007, 10:27:22 PM »
Hello everyone,

Goodluck to all those studying and getting ready for finals. I have my civpro final in 5 days and finally things are starting to click except for that god forsaken erie doctrine.

Does anyone have any tips, resources, suggestions, with the erie doctrine? I am not looking to supplements this far into the game, but I just was looking for some clear answers for one, in a fact pattern, when should I realize that I have an erie question on my hand? Also, perhaps some black letter rules for erie that are the most important. Thanks in advance, sorry if this was incoherent, I am studying for a different class.


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Re: Erie Doctrine, help me master this sucker before my final
« Reply #1 on: December 05, 2007, 10:58:40 PM »
Maybe the below will be helpful...maybe not....your civ pro professor might approach erie differently..


A.   APPLYING ERIE: In diversity cases the court has the problem in deciding which law to apply.
1.   Is it Substantive or Procedural?
a.   Substantive = go to #2 - related to the cause of action or claims being raised
b.   Procedural = go to #3 - related to the  process of the case that needs to be followed 
2.   Is there federal law on point?
a.   YES. This is a HANNAH problem.  So, if there is a  federal law on point, we apply the federal law of procedure .  Hannah told us that this is not an ERIE PROBLEM. This is based on Rules Enabling Act, which was a congressional delegation that gave the authority to promulgate the FRCP, as long as the rule is valid under the constitution and is arguably procedure.  SO, in matter of procedure, where there is a federal law on point, the federal law will apply.  This is supremacy clause because the federal wins the state as long as it is valid and procedural.   HANNAH does not look at ERIE at all because this is a HANNAH problem
1.   Based on Rules Enabling Act (28 USC 2072):
1.   Is federal practice codified into a FRCP or federal statute on procedure?
2.   If so, is the federal rule directly on point? (this can be arguable - for instance, if defined narrowly: state law applies; if defined broadly: federal law applies)
3.   If federal rule/statute of procedure is on point, apply the federal rule.
a.   NO. Go to #3
3.   Then it becomes ERIE: Is it substantive or procedural?
i.   Is it outcome determinative? Pursuant to Guaranty Trust, federal district courts should apply the "outcome determinative" test in resolving conflicts between state laws and federal laws that are not purely substantive or procedural in nature. The quintessential "gray area" conflict involves statutes of limitations.
1.   Outcome determinative - whenever federal law would affect the outcome provided a tempting alternative to the dreary task of examining each issue, identifying the interests involved, and weighting them in some ill-define manner. State law will apply in this case.
a.   The problem with this test is that any rule becomes outcome determinative.  Ex: would be the size of the paper that was too small and the case would be dismissed based on that. Does that really mean that this is substance law? We are not sure how we limit this test.
ii.   Balance of the interest?  Countervailing Federal interest - Byrd case - in this case the federal court wanted to let the jury to hear this case where the state wanted the judge to hear this case. This is not outcome determinative because we do not know the outcome of the judge or the one of the jury. So, this is not outcome determinative at all.  Here we will weigh policies behind federal and state rules and determine whether there is a substantial possibility that different results would be obtained if federal practice is used. (it looks at which has a better reason for the usage) Here the federal court had a strong reason for this, but the state did not have a reason for the judge to decide the case. The federal interest was to allow the jury to hear the case, bc that is something that we would like to have.
iii.   What about the twin aims of ERIE?
1.   If the federal court applies federal law will it lead to forum shopping and inequitable administration of  law?
a.   Avoidance of forum shopping
b.   Avoidance of the inequitable administration of law
i.   How do you apply? ASK YOURSELF:
a.   If the federal court ignored the state law would it cause litigants to go to federal court???  IF SO, this is not a good thing because:
i.   It would be unfair  because the instate citizens can not go to federal court because they can not invoke diversity
ii.   We donít want a lot of cases in the federal court
CONCLUSION: IF it violates the TWIN aims of ERIE we MUST apply the state law.
"The current law can best be understood as involving a three-question inquiry.  If there is no conflict b/tw state

and federal law, both are to be applied.  But if state and federal law, both are to be applied.  But if state and

federal law are inconsistent, the following questions must be asked.  First, is there a valid federal statute or

Federal Rule of procedure on point, such as a provision of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure or the Federal Rules

of Appellate Procedure?  If so, then the federal law is to be applied, even if there is conflicting state law.  If

there is not a valid statute or Rule of procedure, the second question is whether the application of the state law in

question is likely to determine the outcome of the lawsuit.  If the state law is deemed to be outcome determinative,

then the federal law is used.  But if the state law is deemed to be outcome determinative, then the third question is

asked: is there an overriding federal interest justifying the application of federal law?  If state law is outcome

determinative and there is no countervailing federal interest, then state law controls.  Otherwise federal  law is

applied.  In applying this test, federal courts are to be guided by the goals of the Erie doctrine, which are to

prevent forum shopping and the inequitable administration of justice"