Erie Doctrine and Choice of Law – Introduction

Erie Doctrine and Choice of Law – Introduction


Erie Doctrine:
A judicially created doctrine that dictates that, in certain instances, state law must be applied to cases in federal court.

The next two subchapters identify yet another element of civil procedure that focuses on the application of law in courts at the federal and state level.

Laws are created at the federal and state level. As one would expect, federal laws are applied on a nationwide scale while state laws are limited to a state’s geographical borders and residents. However, frequently, federal and state governments create laws regulating the same subject matter. Sometimes, these laws are in direct conflict with one another. Sometimes, the outcome of a lawsuit based on a federal law would be almost identical to one analyzed under state law; however there are also many instances when its resolution would result in differing outcomes depending on whether state or federal law is applied. When these situations arise, it prompts both the courts and attorneys to inquire as to whether federal or state laws should apply to the case.

The Erie Doctrine and the choice of law rules assist the courts and attorneys in determining and selecting the appropriate law, federal or state, to apply in a given legal context. These principles seek to answer the basic question: if a lawsuit is brought in federal or state court and there are federal and state laws that govern or impact the legal question at hand, which law do you apply? Federal law or state law? The courts have recognized the importance of these questions and have established rules and doctrines to aid in applying the appropriate laws.