Tag Archive for: United States

Choice of Law in the American Courts in 2023

The thirty-seventh annual survey on choice of law in the American courts is now available on SSRN. The survey covers significant cases decided in 2023 on choice of law, party autonomy, extraterritoriality, international human rights, foreign sovereign immunity, adjudicative jurisdiction, and the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments. So, on this leap day, we thought we would leap into the new month by looking back at the old year.

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U.S. Supreme Court Decides Great Lakes

On February 21, 2024, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down its decision in Great Lakes Insurance SE v. Raiders Retreat Realty Company, LLC.

The question presented was whether, under federal admiralty law, a choice-of-law clause in a maritime contract can be rendered unenforceable if enforcement is contrary to the “strong public policy” of the U.S. state whose law is displaced. In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Kavanaugh, the Court concluded that the answer to this question was no. It held that choice-of-law provisions in maritime contracts are presumptively enforceable as a matter of federal maritime law. It further held that while there are narrow exceptions to this rule, state public policy is not one of them.

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Data on Choice-of-Court Clause Enforcement in US

The United States legal system is immensely complex. There are state courts and federal courts, state statutes and federal statutes, state common law and federal common law. When I imagine a foreign lawyer trying to explain this system to a foreign client, my heart fills with pity.

This feeling of pity is compounded when I imagine this same lawyer trying to advise her client as to whether a choice-of-court clause will be enforced by a court in the United States. The law on this subject is complicated. It is, moreover, not easy to determine how it is applied in practice. Are there differences in clause enforcement rates across the states? Across federal circuits? Do state courts enforce these clauses at the same rate as federal courts? Until recently, there was no data that would allow a foreign lawyer – or a U.S. lawyer, for that matter – to answer any of these questions.

Over the past several years, I have authored or co-authored several empirical articles that seek to answer the questions posed above. This post provides a summary of the data gathered for these articles. All of the cases referenced involve outbound choice-of-court clauses, i.e. clauses that select a jurisdiction other than the one where the suit was filed. Readers interested in the data collection process, the caveats to which the data is subject, or other methodological issues should consult the articles and their appendices. This post first describes state court practice. It then describes federal court practice. It concludes with a brief discussion comparing the two.


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