When Worlds Collide: The In Rem Jury and Other Marvels of Modern Admiralty
Steven F. Friedell
Rutgers Law School
Journal of Maritime Law and Commerce, Vol. 35, No. 1, 2004
Almost forty years after the merger of the civil and admiralty rules of procedure, courts and commentators are fundamentally divided over how to handle cases that fall both within the federal court’s admiralty jurisdiction and within some other basis of federal jurisdiction. Prior to 1966, federal courts exercising their admiralty jurisdiction tried cases without juries and allowed litigants unique remedies like suing vessels in rem and special procedures like interlocutory appeal. A plaintiff wanting a jury could sue either in State court or in federal court if there was some other basis of jurisdiction such as diversity of citizenship. Although all courts hearing maritime claims are required to apply the same substantive law regardless of the court’s jurisdiction, a party demanding a jury trial in State courts or federal courts could not proceed in rem nor could it obtain the benefit of the special maritime procedures.
Since trial by jury and the suit in rem are powerful remedies, the merger of law and admiralty has raised concern that a party seeking the best of both worlds - maritime remedies and procedures and a common law jury - might be taking an unfair advantage. The Article shows how to resolve these concerns by a proper understanding of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Those rules dictate that certain maritime procedure will apply either when the court has only admiralty jurisdiction over the claim or when the party making the claim so elects. Moreover, every defendant or third party making a claim has the option of designating each of its claims as a maritime claim if the court has admiralty jurisdiction and some other subject matter jurisdiction over the claim.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 44
Date posted: September 6, 2010