Brilmayer and Anglin on Choice of Law and the Metaphysics of the Stand-Alone Trigger


Lea Brilmayer (Yale Law School) and Raechel Anglin (Bingham McCutchen LLP) have published Choice of Law Theory and the Metaphysics of the Stand-Alone Trigger in the latest issue of the Iowa Law Review.

This Article provides a novel account for the choice of law revolution of the 1960s and 1970s and, building on our new conceptualization of the choice of law revolution, this Article argues for a fundamental shift in modern choice of law—a shift toward a multifactor future.

Whereas previous scholars have uniformly conceived of the transition from the dominant first Restatement of Conflict of Laws to modern choice of law theory as a legal realist rejection of vested rights, this Article argues that judges were motivated to move away from the first Restatement because they found inequitable its single-factor results. The first Restatement relies on a single contact with a state to determine which state’s law applies in a multistate dispute, and this Article concludes that when that contact “stands alone”—i.e., is the only contact with that state—judges find the result dictated by the first Restatement to be arbitrary and unjust. When faced with such “lopsided” factual scenarios, judges have moved away from the first Restatement.

However, because judges and scholars alike have consistently misdiagnosed the underlying problem, as this Article demonstrates, modern choice of law theories suffer from the same single-factor flaws that plague the first Restatement. Thus, this Article argues for a multifactor approach to choice of law. This Article argues that a multifactor approach will have three significant advantages: (1) avoidance of controversial jurisprudential premises; (2) reduction of extraterritoriality; and (3) greater flexibility for judges. Perhaps most importantly, by properly identifying the root cause of the first Restatement’s ills, this Article paves the way for greater theoretical clarity and simplicity, leading to more equitable results in choice of law.

The article can be freely downloaded here.