Relations between the Federal and State Courts

By Mitchell Wendell | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
IS DIVERSITY JURISDICTION NECESSARY?

THE development of the Erie Rule has undoubtedly done much to bring order and harmony into federal-state judicial relations, but the present situation is not without its incongruities. Many suitors use all their ingenuity to avoid state courts in the belief that the national judiciary will treat them more favorably. But when they finally succeed in establishing the jurisdiction of the forum of their choice, it is only to discover that the federal judge is doing everything he can to find out how a state court would decide the case before him, and to give full effect to local law. Admittedly, the differences in substantive principles current during the Tyson Era have been replaced by differences between federal and state procedure, but where the outcome of a case is made to depend on these differences, the result is even less defensible than was the old conflict between national and local rules of substantive law. Before 1938 it could at least be argued that there was room for dispute as to whose substantive law was superior. One might occasionally be able to say that the outcome of a particular case had been more just because the rule containing the better substantive policy had been invoked. But procedure should be a mechanical aid to the securing of justice rather than a determinant of its content. If different procedures promote different substantive results it is probably because one of the competing methods of administration is defective. The remedy for such a deficiency is not to perpetuate the multiplicity of procedures but rather to settle on the best rule and make that one standard.

The real value of the Erie Rule is to be found in the lessened disparity between federal and state administered justice. If a greater identity of result is indeed a reality, we may ask whether there is any good reason to retain an arrangement

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