Rules of Decision Act


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Rules of Decision Act

The Rules of Decision Act, (28 U.S.C.A. § 1652 [1948]) provides that where the Constitution, treaties, or acts of Congress are inapplicable, the law of the state in which the federal court is sitting should apply to civil actions.

First enacted in 1789, the act is designed to discourage forum-shopping and to avoid the unfair administration of laws in cases heard by federal courts because of the Diversity of Citizenship of the parties. The landmark decision in erie railroad co. v. tompkins, 304 U.S. 64, 58 S. Ct. 817, 82 L. Ed. 1188 (1938), interpreted the Rules of Decision Act to include not only state statutes, but also controlling judicial decisions or state Common Law as constituting the laws of the state. Erie overruled swift v. tyson, 41 U.S. (16 Pet.) 1, 10 L. Ed. 865 (1842), which construed the Rules of Decision Act as not requiring federal courts to apply state common law in diversity cases.

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Resolving Separation of Powers and Federalism Problems Raised by Erie, the Rules of Decision Act, and the Rules Enabling Act: A Proposed Solution, 32 CAP.
In fact, however, the Rules of Decision Act is not a regulation of the judicial decision-making process because it does not create any new legal rule for courts to follow.
But I actually owe these insights about the Rules of Decision Act to Lee Liberman Otis, to whom I am grateful.
This feature of the statute is more significant than the statute's direct choice of law rule because the obligation to apply state law probably exists independently of statute, for the same reasons that the Rules of Decision Act is merely declaratory.
Only the Rules of Decision Act escapes the sweep of Lawson's sweepingly narrow view of the Sweeping Clause, but only because Lawson thinks it "an exhortation rather than a regulation," being merely "declaratory" of what the Constitution requires in any event.
And I think I should be able to get them, because this time I've got Lawson dead to rights: His two key concessions--first, the nuclear alternatives of impeachment and nonexecution as constitutionally legitimate checks on the courts; and second, the legitimacy (or at least harmlessness) of the Rules of Decision Act as a statute declaratory of what should be understood as the proper constitutional rule in any event--give away the whole ballgame.
17) The Rules of Decision Act (18) survives, however, because it is "an exhortation rather than a regulation, along the lines of `decide cases correctly' or `observe National Vinegar Month.
I am far less convinced than Lawson that the Rules of Decision Act is merely declaratory.
Yes--certainly yes, if a declaratory Rules of Decision Act is constitutional (and Lawson thinks it is).
the Rules of Decision Act therefore does not reflect any underlying theory of the sweeping clause.