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Conflict of Laws
Southern University Law Center
Franks, Maurice R.



1. The Subject Matter:

y The conflict of laws is the study of how the answer to a legal problem is affected by the fact that the elements of the problem have contacts with more than 1 jurisdiction.

y 1. Where can the parties resolve a dispute? [Judicial jurisdiction.]

2. What law will apply to resolve the dispute? [Choice of law.]

3. What will be effect of any judgment or award? [Judgments; FF&C]

2. The Functions of Conflicts as a Body of Law: No country that believes foreign court has improperly exercised jurisdiction will recognize its judgment.


1. Intestate Succession to Movables:

y In re Estate of Jones:

FACTS: Decedent was born in Wales, moved to IA, and then died on a ship while returning to Wales.


Every person, under all circumstances and conditions, must have a domicile somewhere. There’re different kinds of domiciles recognized by law:

i. Domicile of origin: the domicile of your parents at the time of your birth.

Constitutes the domicile of an infant, and continues, until abandoned, or until the acquisition of a new domicile, in a different place.

ii. Domicile of choice: the place which a person has elected and chosen for himself to displace his previous domicile.

iii. Domicile by operation of law: that domicile which the law attributes to a person independent of his own intention or action of residence.

Decedent’s intention was to abandon his domicile of choice [IA] and return to his domicile of origin [Wales].

Generally the acquisition of a new domicile must have been completely perfected, and hence there must have been a concurrence both of the fact of removal and the intent to remain in the new locality before the former domicile can be considered lost.

The general rule that a domicile once legally acquired is retained until a new domicile is secured, and that, in the acquisition of such new domicile, both the fact and the intention must concur, it seems to us is a rule of universal and general application and that there’s neither good logic nor substantial reason for the application of an exception to that rule in the case where the party is in itinere toward the domicile of origin.

y Movables: personal property.

y Domicile = Physical Presence + Intent to Remain Indefinitely.

You just have to be physically present for the blink of an eye.

Look for objective manifestations of intent, like where they vote, etc.

The domicile of either spouse is determined by their individual intentions and actions.

The intention required isn’t an intention specifically directed to a change of domicile, but an intention of residing in a country for an unlimited time.

You can only have 1 domicile for 1 legal purpose, but you can be domiciled somewhere else for another legal purpose.

While a person may have only 1 true domicile, he may have more than 1 residence.

While declaration of domicile is entitled to some deference, it may be overcome by evidence of strong circumstances to the contrary. Behavior may speak louder than words.


The impropriety of a person’s motive in coming to a place doesn’t prevent his acquisition there of a domicile of choice. Legal residence doesn’t depend upon the legality of the object of the residence.

y Emancipation: the process by which a minor is released from the control and authority of his parents.

Emancipation occurs when (1) minor reaches age of discretion and (2) parents expressly or impliedly renounce their parental duties and all rights to minor’s services.

A minor who contracts a valid marriage is thereby emancipated.

Until emancipated, a legitimate child’s domicile is that of the parents and, if the parents are separated, that of the parent with whom the child is living.

3. Validity of a Will:

y In re Estate of Clark:

FACTS: VA decedent said he wanted his will to be governed by laws of NY. HOLDING & REASONING: VA law applies.

As between 2 states, the law of that 1 which has the predominant, if not the sole, interest in the protection and regulation of the rights of the person or persons involved should be invoked.

NOTES: Apply an “interest analysis.”

y Traditional choice-of-law rules apply the law of the testator’s domicile at death to the validity of testamentary dispositions of personal property and the law of the situs to the dispositions of realty.

4. Diversity Jurisdiction:


FACTS: PR-born П was injured in PR and moved to NY, where suit was brought in federal court in PR.


State citizenship for diversity purposes is ordinarily equated with domicile. It is the domicile at the time

suit is filed which controls, and the fact that the П has changed his domicile with the purpose of bringing a diversity action in federal court is irrelevant.

Generally the domicile of an unemancipated minor is ordinarily that of his parents.

Although federal courts have to apply the choice-of-law rules of the forum to determine the substantive law in diversity cases, the determination of litigant’s state citizenship for purposes of § 1332(a)(1) is controlled by federal common law, not by the law of any state.

PR has little interest, based simply on the continuing presence of his parents in PR, in denying П, while physically residing in NY, right to sue under diversity jurisdiction in a federal district court.

If П can show that he meets the requisite factors of physical presence and intent, he is entitled to be a NY domiciliary for diversity purposes notwithstanding his minority status under PR law.

To hold that 1 who meets all the domiciliary requirements (including capacity) of the state where he currently resides is a citizen of that state, seems clearly the most reasonable result here.

Federal diversity jurisdiction exists as a matter of right for those who meet the statutory criteria, whether

or not the П would actually encounter prejudice in the courts of another state.

NOTES: The general rule is that questions of domicile are determined by the law of the forum.

4. Judicial Jurisdiction: y Alvord & Alvord:

FACTS: П posted service on ∆’s door in NY, even though ∆ was in France while moving to Switzerland. REASONING: It’s clear that domicile was still in U.S. at time service was made, for ∆ had not yet arrived in Switzerland, his allegedly intended new domicile. The existing domicile, whether of origin or

selection, continues until a new 1 is acquired.

y General jurisdiction: ∆ can be sued at the domicile on any cause of action, even 1 not arising out of or related to anything occurring in the forum.

y Specific jurisdiction: claim-related jurisdiction.

6. Special Situations:

y Student will usually not acquire a domicile of choice in the place where the school or college is located.


The situation is different if student has abandoned parental home and has struck out to make an independent life, particularly if student has married. It then becomes far more likely that court will accept claim that location of institution of learning is student’s “home” and is a domicile of choice.

y Any minor over 18 has the capacity to acquire a domicile of choice for voting purposes, and his capacity isn’t impaired by living in a college dormitory and receiving parental support.

y A person doesn’t usually acquire a domicile of choice by his presence in a place under physical or legal compulsion.

It’s difficult for a person to acquire a domicile of choice in the prison in which he is incarcerated.

Where serviceman lives off base and shows clear intention to make his home where he lives, he may acquire a domicile there.

y In close cases, decision of a question of domicile may sometimes depend upon purpose for which domicile concept is used in the particular case.


M Types of Jurisdiction:

1. In personam.

2. In rem.

3. Quasi in rem.

M Jurisdictional Test:

1. Is ∆ amenable to process?

, This is where long-arm statutes come into play.

, Bases of Jurisdiction:

1. Presence of ∆ or of property.

2. Domicile; nationality; incorporation; continuous/systematic forum activity.

3. Appearance; waiver.

4. Consent.

5. Activities within or causing effects in the forum state (“minimum contacts test”).

2. Does exercise of jurisdiction violate due process? i. Does ∆ have minimum contacts with forum? ii. Is jurisdiction in the forum reasonable or fair?

5 factors mentioned in World-Wide Volkswagen. iii. Is there notice?

1. Introduction & General Considerations:

y Test: (1) F-1 judgment is valid under the laws of F-1; (2) F-1 judgment is valid under laws of F-2.

y Buchanan:

FACTS: П posted service on courthouse door in Tobago.

REASONING: Court of Tobago doesn’t have jurisdiction here because its own laws don’t grant it such. NOTES: You need legislative authorization to exercise jurisdiction.

y Schibsby:

FACTS: French П brought French judgment to England for enforcement over English ∆s. REASONING: Because ∆s were not French subjects or residents and had not otherwise submitted to

French jurisdiction, there existed nothing in the present case imposing on them any duty to obey the judgment of a French tribunal.

y In the U.S. there’re 3 main requirements for jurisdiction to adjudicate:

1. The state must have some contact with the parties (jurisdiction in personam) or with property (jurisdiction in rem) that makes it reasonable for the court to exercise jurisdiction.

, Jurisdiction in personam or personal jurisdiction deals with the power of a government (usually acting through its courts) to impose on ∆ a personal liability or obligation in favor of П.


Jurisdiction in rem deals with power to adjudicate interests in property even though the court may not have jurisdiction in personam over all of those whose interests the court affects.

y Notice: deal with whether the method of informing the unwilling party is sufficient to allow that government to fairly determine the party’s rights.

y Subject matter jurisdiction (a.k.a. competence): usually deals with the internal allocation of business among a government’s courts.

D. Parties wishing to

re prerequisite to its exercise of power over him.

The unilateral activity of those who claim some relationship with a nonresident ∆ can’t satisfy the requirement of contact with a forum state. The application of that rule will vary with the quality and nature of the ∆’s activity, but it’s essential in each case that there be some act by which the ∆ purposefully avails itself of the privilege of conducting activities within the forum

state, thus invoking the benefits and protections of its laws.



Unilateral activities can’t be attributed to ∆ for purposes of obtaining jurisdiction.

Hanson’s “purposeful availment” test remains influential, though it has been recast. The modern focus is on the circumstances that affiliate the ∆ with the forum state, together with the foreseeability of litigation there.

y World-Wide Volkswagen Corp.:

FACTS: ∆ sold car to Пs in NY which was involved in an accident in OK.


A state court may exercise personal jurisdiction over a nonresident ∆ only so long as there exist “minimum contacts” between the ∆ and the forum state.

The protection against inconvenient litigation is typically described in terms of “reasonableness” or “fairness.” Implicit in this emphasis on reasonableness is the understanding that (1) the burden on the ∆, while always a primary concern, will in an appropriate case be considered in light of other relevant factors, including (2) the forum state’s interest in adjudicating the dispute; (3) the П’s interest in obtaining convenient and effective relief, adequately protected by П’s power to choose the forum; (4) the interstate judicial system’s interest in obtaining the most efficient resolution of controversies; and (5) the shared interest of the several states in furthering fundamental substantive social policies.

Foreseeability alone has never been a sufficient benchmark for personal jurisdiction under the Due Process Clause. The foreseeability that is critical to due process analysis isn’t the mere likelihood that a product will find its way into the forum state, but it is that the ∆’s conduct and connection with the forum state are such that he should reasonably anticipate being haled into court there.

The forum state doesn’t exceed its powers under the Due Process Clause if it asserts personal jurisdiction over a corporation that delivers its products into the stream of commerce with the expectation that they will be purchased by consumers in the forum state.

Whatever marginal revenues petitioners may receive by virtue of the fact that their products are capable of use in OK is to far attenuated a contact to justify that state’s exercise of in personam jurisdiction over them…..reversed.

y Keeton:

FACTS: П brought suit in NH for libelous magazine, although neither П nor ∆ were residents of NH.


In judging minimum contacts, a court properly focuses on the relationship among the ∆, the forum, and the litigation.

The contacts between ∆ and the forum must be judged in the light of that claim [i.e., that П is seeking to recover damages suffered in all states in this 1 suit], rather than a claim only for damages sustained in NH.

The contacts between ∆ and NH must be such that it’s “fair” to compel ∆ to defend a multistate lawsuit in NH seeking nationwide damages for all copies of the 5 issues in question.

It’s beyond dispute that NH has significant interest in redressing injuries that occur within NH. We have not to date required Пs to have “minimum contacts” with the forum state before

permitting that state to assert personal jurisdiction over a nonresident ∆.

NOTES: To reach the out-of-state corporate parent, whether on claims relating to the subsidiary corporation (vicarious liability) or for claims against itself, there must be jurisdiction over it.

y Burger King v. Rudzewicz:

FACTS: MI-∆ signed franchise agreement with FL-П and then defaulted on agreement.


A state generally has a manifest interest in providing its residents with a convenient forum for redressing injuries inflicted by out-of-state actors.

Where individuals purposefully derive benefit from their interstate activities it may well be unfair to allow them to escape having to account in other states for consequences that arise proximately from such activities