Civil Procedure Class Notes
More easy Erie
All we need to do in easy Erie is figure out what law the federal courts apply. That’s the law of the state in which they sit, and the law means statutes and court decisions.
Erie itself said that state law on level of duty was substantive and thus must be applied.
This case gives us the outcome-determinative test. We don’t look at the name given to the rule by the state to determine whether the rule is substantive or procedural. We want to ensure the case will come out substantially the same whether it is tried in federal court or state court. The problem is that this test goes too far: a lot of crazy little things can be outcome-determinative! Recall the reduction of the paper sizes.
Post-York, there is confusion among the courts about how to apply or limit the rule.
v. Merchants Transfer & Warehouse Co., we have a car wreck in
federal rules are very simple: Rule 3 says that an action is commenced with
filing. So if we
follow the federal rule, the lawsuit is timely, and we’re good to go. On the other hand,
If we apply the outcome-determinative test to this, the outcome will definitely be affected if we use federal instead of state rules. Do we follow the state rule in this case? According to York, we must, and that’s what the Supreme Court holds in Ragan.
wait, it gets better! In Cohen v.
Beneficial Indus. Loan Corp., which was a shareholder derivative action, a
federal rule has no bond. The
third case in the trilogy was Woods v. Interstate Realty Co. Under
In Erie, Justice Reed admonished us that “no one doubts federal power over procedure”. However, in practice, when we applied the outcome-determinative test, the FRCP got eaten up by competing state laws! Our rules are getting killed off!
Thus, the stage is set for a new rule, which we get in…
are the facts here? We are in
sues for his injuries in federal court in
The worker’s comp statute says that employers pay for the worker’s comp system. Employees get benefits for on-the-job injuries, and in return, employers get immunity from tort suits by employers.
the Erie issue? It’s a “who gets to decide” question. The legal issue is whether he’s an employee
Why might they make this policy? The judge might be more experienced in making such determinations. What might the jury do? They might be biased against the employer. The hurt employee is quite sympathetic. The jury might sort of nullify. There also may be more consistency over time if you let the judge decide.
the other hand, under the Seventh Amendment, suits at common law must be tried
by jury. This doesn’t exactly say that a
jury gets to decide who is an employee under
does the Court really tell us? What is
it about the Seventh Amendment that’s important? It’s not unconstitutional to run things in
The court says that the federal courts are run by rules that are under the influence of the Seventh Amendment, but not controlled by it.
The result of this case is that the federal court will allow the jury to determine the immunity issue. The reason isn’t that this is required by the Seventh Amendment, it’s just that it’s influenced by the Seventh Amendment.
So what’s our new test? It’s not just “under the influence”, but also, it’s uncertain whether a different result would follow from applying the federal rule instead of the state rule.
happens if we apply York to this
case? Brennan thinks that using the federal
rule instead of the state rule is not outcome-determinative, and thus we
would use the federal rule. We only
use the state rule if it’s outcome-determinative. This ruling could have been fit into the
Instead of the outcome-determinative test, now we have…
The Byrd Balancing Test
This test is derivative of the earlier test. There are three questions that you ask when you deal with Erie questions:
1. Is the state rule bound up with rights and obligations?
This is the substantive question. In Erie, the state rule had everything to do with rights and obligations, so the state rule applied.
If the answer is yes, state law applies.
If the answer to this first question is no, however, you ask the second question.
2. Will applying the state rule dictate the result of the case?
3. Are there countervailing considerations?
For example, what is the interest in the federal forum as opposed to the state forum? Compare this to the issues of personal jurisdiction and the balancing tests you find there.
Let’s apply this to Byrd!
In Byrd, the state rule is not
bound up with rights and obligations; it is not a rule that is bound up with
the substantive law of the state of
Will applying the state rule dictate the result of Byrd? Brennan says that if outcome were the only consideration, there would be a strong case for the federal courts following the state rule. However, we check out the third question.
Is there any countervailing federal consideration that outweighs the state rule? The Seventh Amendment wins out here! We won’t “disrupt” the regular federal method of dividing up power between judges and juries.
Wright described this decision as the most “Delphic” of the Supreme Court’s major Erie decisions.
says that the main advantage of Byrd is that it gives us a
chance to consider the federal forum’s interest in running things a certain
way. This case helps us to preserve the
rest of the federal rules and stop the killing off of all the FRCPs! It stops the
erosion of the Eerie
An example of Byrd
guy flies a plane from
question is whether or not to apply the
1. Is the
2. Will applying
3. Are there any
countervailing federal considerations?
As a matter of constitutional law, citizens of different states are
allowed to sue each other in federal district courts under diversity.