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Conflicts of Law
Wayne State University Law School
Sedler, Robert A.

CONFLICTS OF LAW OUTLINE – PROFESSOR SEDLER – WINTER 2003
 
I. INTRODUCTION TO CHOICE OF LAW
 
·        When a legal problem involves incidents or issues concerning more than one state cts must decide which state’s legal rules should control
·        Started w/ vested rights/territorial approach until past mid-century → Brainderd Currie’s Interest Analysis approach
·        Professor Joseph Beale and the First Restatement: based on the idea that at the moment a cause of action arises, rights vest according to the law of the place where the crucial events occurred
o       Problem was that it did not inquire into the purposes behind the competing substantive law rules – was not tailored to serve societal goals
o       Result was Second Restatement: eschews hard and fast rules in favor of the general principle that the law of the state w/ “the most significant relationship” to a transaction should control – the goal is to ensure that the law of the state most concerned w/ the problem will be applied and lead thereby to a sensible outcome to the litigation – sometimes called the “proper law”
o       Brainerd Currie: choice of law should focus on the policies behind state substantive law – whether a rule should apply should depend upon whether the policy underlying that rule would be advanced by its application = “interest analysis” approach
§         Some combo of the 2 systems (2nd restatement and interest analysis) has been adopted by most courts and commentators
§         Recent years have seen a partial withdrawal from interest analysis – the worry is that the apparently indefinite, almost formless nature of Currie’s process has led to ad hoc decision-making
§         Some judges and scholars have suggested that are experience w/ modern forms of choice-of-law analysis is broad enough to permit the promulgation of new “rules” that will be both functional and certain →
·        One way to look at alternative methods of choosing applicable law is to distinguish b/w jurisdiction-selecting systems on the one hand, and content or policy selecting systems on the other → juris-selecting systems choose a state whose law will be applied regardless of the content or motivating policy VS content selecting systems focus on the policy behind the law
·        First Restatement was jurisdiction-selecting
·        Varieties of interest analysis are content-selecting
 
Hypo 1: traveling in another state and get in accident – this case contains a foreign element – did not occur all w/in the same state and people not all of same residence
            Unitary State: one law w/in the nation (i.e. France)
            Interstate Conflict: if there is a conflict b/w 2 states or provinces of Canada
            International Conflict: state of nation and foreign state
            Private International Law: determines whether and to what extent the forum will give effect to             the presence of the foreign element
 
Hypo 2: Both residents of MI but accident in OH
            1. Jurisdiction: always determine FIRST if state has jurisdiction – a state can exercise                        jurisdiction on the basis of minimum contacts → (a) Forum D contacts OR (b) Transaction             contacts OR (c) Forum prop contacts
                        Options in hypo:
                                    a. Sue in OH: Long Arm Act – accident occurred there
                                    b. Sue in MI: D is in MI – jurisdiction depends on the transaction OR location of           

                  (2) Functionally sound result – state’s interest: some states have a legitimate interest in                      controlling the matter – OH’s policy is to encourage oral Ks and the K connected                                         completely to OH – it is hard to see why MI would have any interest in regulating the                            transaction simply b/c the D is resident there
                        (3) Justification for displacing foreign law: in some cases, the forum searching to apply                        a fair result, the ct must displace its own law to recognize a legitimate interest of another                                     state
                                    Uniformity, predictability, and protection of expections
 
·        Conflict of Law is a matter of state law – look into state law before starting the case
o       Erie – substantive or procedural? – will the choice of law affect the outcome? = outcome determinative – therefore, in conflicts cases look to state law in diversity cases
·        Transfer of venue: for convenience of the parties, cases can be relocated – transferred to another federal ct
o       Ex: if GM convinces ct that a transfer should be made to southern district of FL from MI – if there is a conflict, judge will still have to apply MI conflicts law
 
II. TRADITIONAL APPROACH TO CHOICE OF LAW
 
A. DEVELOPMENT