Conflict of Laws header image


Pamela Bookman

Written by John Coyle, the Reef C. Ivey II Distinguished Professor of Law, Associate Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law, and Katherine C. Richardson, Law Clerk, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, 2020-21 Term


European legal scholars have long bemoaned the difficulty in identifying “black letter rules” when it comes to U.S. private international law.  One area where this law is famously opaque relates to state enforcement of “outbound” forum selection clauses.  Outbound clauses—which are known as derogation clauses in the rest of the world—state that a dispute must be heard by a court other than the one where the suit was brought.  State courts in the United States generally refused to enforce these provisions prior to 1972.  After the U.S. Supreme Court rendered its seminal decision in The Bremen, however, attitudes began to change.  Today, it is generally acknowledged that state courts are far more likely to enforce outbound forum selection clauses than they were fifty years ago.  To date, however, nobody has attempted to determine empirically the extent to which state court practice has shifted since the early 1970s.  Our new paper seeks to accomplish this goal.

A Short History of the Choice-of-Law Clause

Written by John Coyle, the Reef C. Ivey II Distinguished Professor of Law, Associate Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law

The choice-of-law clause is now omnipresent.  A recent study found that these clauses can be found in 75 percent of material agreements executed by large public companies in the United States.  The popularity of such clauses in contemporary practice raises several questions.  When did choice-of-law clauses first appear?  Have they always been popular?  Has the manner in which they are drafted changed over time?  Surprisingly, the existing literature provides few answers.

On January 4, 2020, the Conflict of Laws Section of the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) will host a panel at the AALS Annual Meeting in Washington, DC.   Registration is available here.

Sessions Information
January 4, 2020

10:30 am – 12:15 pm

Room: Maryland Suite B
Floor: Lobby Level
Hotel: Washington Marriott Wardman Park Hotel

Description: The biggest development in conflict of laws in the last 100 years is the move to party autonomy. The panel will discuss issues relating to the interpretation and enforcement of choice-of-law clauses, forum selection clauses, and arbitration clauses. It will also discuss the reasons why parties may choose to arbitrate or litigate future disputes at the time of contracting.


Written by Matthew S. Erie, Associate Professor of Modern Chinese Studies and Fellow at St. Cross College, University of Oxford

On April 2, 2019, the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (“HKSAR”) and the Supreme People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China” (“Supreme People’s Court”) signed an Arrangement Concerning Mutual Assistance in Court-ordered Interim Measures in Aid of Arbitral Proceedings by the Courts of the Mainland and of the HKSAR (hereinafter, “the Arrangement Concerning Mutual Assistance,” see English translation here). This is a momentous development in the growth of international commercial arbitration in both mainland China (also, the “PRC”) and Hong Kong as it is the first time that such a mechanism has been put in place to allow Chinese courts to render interim relief to support arbitrations seated outside of the PRC.

Interpreting Forum Selection Clauses

Written by John Coyle, the Reef C. Ivey II Term Professor of Law, Associate Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law

Last week, I wrote about the interpretive rules that U.S. courts use to construe ambiguous choice-of-law clauses.  Choice-of-law clauses are not, however, the only means by which contracting parties may exercise their autonomy under the rules of private international law.  Parties may also select via contract the forum in which their disputes will be resolved.  In the United States, these contractual provisions are generally known as forum selection clauses.  Elsewhere in the world, such provisions are generally known as choice-of-court clauses.  Since this post is largely focused on U.S. practice, I utilize the former term.

Interpreting Choice-of-Law Clauses

Written by John Coyle, the Reef C. Ivey II Term Professor of Law, Associate Professor of Law at the University of North Carolina School of Law

Over the past few decades, the concept of party autonomy has moved to the forefront of private international law scholarship.  The question of whether (and to what extent) private actors may choose the law that will govern their relationship has generated extensive commentary and discussion.  The result?  An ever-expanding literature on the role of party autonomy in private international law.

The U.S. Arbitration-Litigation Paradox

The U.S. Supreme Court is well-known for its liberal pro-arbitration policy. In The Arbitration-Litigation Paradox, forthcoming in the Vanderbilt Law Review, I argue that the U.S. Supreme Court’s supposedly pro-arbitration stance isn’t as pro-arbitration as it seems.  This is because the Court’s hostility to litigation gets in the way of courts’ ability to support arbitration—especially international commercial arbitration.

This is the arbitration-litigation paradox in the United States: On one hand, the U.S. Supreme Court’s hostility to litigation seems to complement its pro-arbitration policy. Rising barriers to U.S. court access in general, and in particular in transnational cases (as I have explored elsewhere), seems consistent with a U.S. Supreme Court that embraces arbitration as an efficient method for enforcing disputes. Often, enforcement of arbitration clauses in these cases leads to closing off access to courts, as Myriam Gilles and others have documented.

Professor Jen Daskal writes on Just Security about a potential legislative solution to the Microsoft Ireland case pending in the U.S. Supreme Court, which presents the question of whether a U.S. warrant requires Microsoft to hand over a user’s data that Microsoft stores in Ireland:

“A bipartisan group of Senators today introduced the Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act—a bill that moots the pending Supreme Court Microsoft Ireland case and authorizes the executive to enter into bilateral and multilateral agreements so as to facilitate cross-border access to data in the investigation of serious crime. Amazingly, the legislation has the support of both the Department of Justice and Microsoft – the dueling parties in the Microsoft Ireland case. It also has the support of many other tech companies.