THE SCOPE OF THE ERIE RULE
IT is now a full decade since the Supreme Court overturned Story's doctrine of federal judicial independence and supplanted it with the Erie Rule. As we have seen, the present doctrine is not free from difficulty. Some problems, like those springing from an absence of applicable local precedents, will probably decrease as the passing years multiply the number of reported decisions available from state courts. Other difficulties are inherent in our federal system of government and may never be completely conquered. However, there appears to be general agreement with the aim of Erie v. Tompkins.
The exercise of legislative power by the states is an essential feature of our federal system. In order to make this state power meaningful, it would seem only natural that the states should exert control over the content of their own laws. So far there is no controversy; but what constitutes control? Everyone will agree with Calvin Coolidge's minister who declared that he was against sin. But what is or is not sinful is a much vexed question on which even competent moralists differ. Similarly, there can be many notions concerning what constitutes state control over the content of its laws. It follows that while informed opinion, both on and off the bench, holds it to be desirable that local conceptions of state law prevail, general acquiescence in this underlying principle does not necessarily insure the realization of the goal. We must, therefore, ask whether the Erie Case has increased state authority.
A significant indication of the importance which the Erie Rule has assumed may be seen in its extension into the field of equity. It will be remembered that Swift v. Tyson governed