Monday, July 20, 2015

The Erie Doctrine

Pretty safe bet that within the Civil Procedure questions on the MBE next week there will be at least one question testing the Erie Doctrine.

As per the doctrine, a federal court in a diversity case will apply federal procedural law, but must apply the substantive law of the state in which the federal court sits. And because the determination as to whether to apply state or federal law depends entirely on whether the law to be applied is deemed procedural or substantive, it's important to understand how to go about making that determination.

Courts will generally use the "outcome determinative test" in determining if a law is procedural or substantive. A law that substantially determines the outcome of the litigation is deemed substantive and the state law will be applied by the federal court. But if a law is arguably procedural, the federal court will generally err on the side of applying the federal procedural law.

**Note that the Erie Doctrine is only an issue when the case is in federal court on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. If instead there is federal-question jurisdiction, then federal law applies even to substantive issues as per the Supremacy Clause.

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