For our first class on January 12, please read pages 519–51 in the casebook and come prepared to discuss the cases in detail.
This course presents the law relating to transactions and lawsuits with elements in multiple states. Major topics include the choice of which state or nation’s law to apply, the jurisdiction of courts, and the enforcement of foreign judgments. The course will discuss these issues in the context of torts, contracts, property, family law, and procedure.
In a sense, this is a course in applied jurisprudence. On the one hand, it is intensely practical. Knowing what law applies is a basic part of legal practice in any field. The course pays extensive and detailed attention to the tactical considerations lawyers weigh when advising a client where to conduct business or file suit. But on the other hand, the process of sorting out what law applies rapidly raises fundamental questions about law, including where law comes from, how courts and parties know what “the law” is, what it means for a court to have “jurisdiction” or enter a “judgment,” whether law is a system of formal rules or a set of policy-driven standards, and who has the final word in a world of numerous and overlapping jurisdictions.
The casebook for the course is Kay, Kramer, and Roosevelt, Conflict of Laws: Cases—Comments—Questions (9th ed. 2013) (the “casebook”). Most of the casebooks for this subject are deadly serious—and deadly dull. This book recognizes that conflict of laws is a black comedy in which every attempt to solve the subject’s enduring problems only seems to multiply them.
Unfortunately, the book is expensive. If you anticipate that this will be a hardship for you, get in touch with me to discuss. One viable option is to use the 8th edition instead of the 9th; it’s available cheaply used. The differences between the two editions are not large; the biggest obstacle is that you will need to spend a few hours identifying places where they diverge and consult a classmate or a library reserve copy where they do.
There are no other required books, but I am happy to provide recommendations for further reading:
For a concise synthesis of the field, I highly recommend the Concepts and Insights book by Kermit Roosevelt. Roosevelt is one of the authors of the casebook, so his commentary is often keyed to major cases we read. In addition, the book is unusually clearly written and extremely insightful, despite its brevity.
For a detailed hornbook, the Understanding book is excellent. (Its authors include our own much-beloved William Reynolds and William Richman of the University of Toledo, a graduate of this law school.) The writing and organization are both crystal-clear.
If you are looking for a full-on treatise, you have two options: one by Weintraub and one by Hay, Borchers, and Symeonides. Both are dry but authoritative.
We meet Mondays and Wednesdays, 10:25 to 11:50, in Room 402. Class will be primarily devoted to intensive discussion of the assigned cases. This is a subject in which the “rules” are few in number and easy to state but their application is complicated and controversial.
Here is what I expect from you in class:
There will be a three-hour final examination on a date to be determined by the Registrar. Questions will be a mix of short answers (one sentence to one paragraph) and issue-spotting essays. The examination will be closed-book and subject to a strict word limit. I will grade the final examinations blind to determine preliminary grades. I may then adjust preliminary grades up or down by a third of a letter grade — or, in extraordinary circumstances, two-thirds of a letter grade — baed on class participation. Good participation is anything that helps your classmates learn; bad participation is anything that detracts from their education.
I highly recommend John Langbein’s advice on Writing Law Examinations.
Office: Room 231
Email: jgrimmelmann at law.umaryland.edu
Email is the best way to reach me and will generally lead to the fastest response.
My spring 2015 office hours will be Tuesdays 1:00 to 3:00 PM, or by appointment.
We start with a warm-up unit on the recognition of judgments from other states. The basic rule of full faith and credit is simple, but it provides a vivid introduction to the central problem of the course: jurisdictions have different laws, different zones of territorial control, and different judicial systems.
We then devote nearly two months to the heart of the subject: choice of law. First, we review the traditional territorial approach, then we consider modern attempts to replace it with something that takes better account of states’ policies. Both approaches have been subjected to withering criticism, and we will delve deep into the caselaw to understand the issues involved. This section concludes with a short unit on the constitutional limits to states’ choice-of-law rules.
Next, we cover family law issues—marriage, divorce, child custody, and child support—and conflict-of-laws issues on the international stage. As time permits, we will revisit some familiar first-year topics (e.g. personal jurisdiction and the Erie doctrine) through a conflict of laws lens.
The following schedule of assignments was last updated January 5. Dates in the future are my best estimates; dates in the past are what we actually did. All readings are from the casebook unless otherwise indicated.
January 12: Full Faith and Credit
January 14: Exceptions
January 19: [no class, holiday]
January 21: [no class, Professor Grimmelmann was sick]
January 26: Torts
January 28: Contracts and Property
February 3: Domicile and Characterization
February 4: Substance and Procedure, Renvoi
February 9: Public Policy, Proving Foreign Law
February 11: Party Autonomy
February 16: Interest Analysis I: False Conflicts
February 18: Interest Analysis II: True Conflicts
February 23: Comparative Impairment, Principles of Preference
February 25: Second Restatement
March 2: Better Law, Depecage, Renvoi revisited
March 4: Rules and Standards, Complex Litigation
March 9: Due Process, Full Faith and Credit
March 11: Convergence
March 23: The Obligation and Right to Provide a Forum, Interstate Discrimination
March 25: Territorial Limits on Jurisdiction
March 30: State Law in Federal Courts
April 1: Federal Law in State Courts
April 6: Divorce
April 8: Same-Sex Marriage and Divorce
April 13: United States Law in United States Courts
April 15: Foreign Law in United States Courts
April 20: Choice of Law in Foreign Courts