Due Process Limitations on
Choice of Law
In multistate cases—cases in which the parties are from different states or events underlying the claim occurred in more than one state—the forum must choose which state's law should govern. Similar choice-of-law problems arise in cases with connections to more than one country. Ordinarily, when a court in the forum state chooses between the laws of two or more states or countries, it applies its own choice-of-law principles to make this selection. Choice-of-law principles are designed to select the most appropriate law to govern the multistate case and to ensure that the forum in which the suit is filed does not affect the outcome of the case.1 Many different choice-of-law theories exist2 and state courts have considerable freedom in selecting the choice-of-law theory to apply, which in turn yields the substantive and procedural law to govern the controversy. The Constitution does impose a modest check, however, on a state's authority to choose its own law to govern the controversy.
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Full Faith and Credit Clause of Article IV of the Constitution provide the primary restrictions on choice of law, although other clauses of the Constitution have relevance as well.3 After a brief examination of the relationship between full faith and credit and due process in this context, we will focus on the extent to which the Due Process Clause limits state choice-of-law decisions, beginning first with the early Supreme Court decisions and moving on to current standards.
ON STATE CHOICE OF LAW
The Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not explicitly regulate state choice of law. Thus, one wonders why it was interpreted to regulate choice of law; how the limitations on choice of law imposed by the Due Process Clause mesh with those imposed by the Full Faith and Credit Clause; and whether