What is the Erie Doctrine? (And What Does It Mean for the Contemporary Politics of Judicial Federalism?)

86 Pages Posted: 3 Apr 2008 Last revised: 2 Jul 2024

See all articles by Adam Steinman

Adam Steinman

Texas A&M University School of Law

Date Written: November 1, 2008


As when Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins was decided seventy years ago, federal courts today are seen as more favorable to corporate and business interests than many of their state-court brethren. The current situation is due in no small part to federal courts' comparatively pro-defendant approaches to summary judgment, class certification, and other procedural issues. The Court's decision in Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, which tilts federal pleading standards in favor of defendants, will likely have similar federalism implications. This Article presents a straightforward argument that the Erie doctrine may require federal courts to follow state-law standards on summary judgment, class certification, and pleading. This argument has strong support in Supreme Court case-law and the black-letter framework for resolving Erie issues, yet it would significantly recalibrate the conventional understanding of judicial federalism in civil adjudication. Ironically, the 2005 Class Action Fairness Act (CAFA)-whose expansion of federal diversity jurisdiction over high-stakes civil litigation was a major political victory for the defense sidestrengthens Erie 's preference for state law, because it confirms that procedural disparities between state and federal courts cause precisely the kind of forumshopping and inequitable treatment that Erie aims to prohibit. Because Erie is likely to play a critical role in the politically-charged arena of contemporary © 2008 Adam N. Steinman. Individuals and nonprofit institutions may reproduce and distribute copies of this Article in any format, at or below cost, for educational purposes, so long as each copy identifies the author, provides a citation to the Notre Dame Law Review, and includes this provision and copyright notice.

Keywords: Erie, CAFA, Class Action Fairness Act, Federalism, Federal Common Law, Judges, Jurisdiction, Civil Procedure, Choice of Law, Article III, Brandeis

JEL Classification: K10, K40, K41

Suggested Citation

Steinman, Adam, What is the Erie Doctrine? (And What Does It Mean for the Contemporary Politics of Judicial Federalism?) (November 1, 2008). Notre Dame Law Review, Vol. 84, No. 1, 2008, pp. 245-330, Texas A&M University School of Law Legal Studies Research Paper, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1115336

Adam Steinman (Contact Author)

Texas A&M University School of Law ( email )

1515 Commerce St.
Fort Worth, TX Tarrant County 76102
United States

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics