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Civil Procedure Fall 2014

Case Note: Erie

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Legislative History: Rules of Decision Act

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An earlier draft of the Rules of Decision Act (discovered during the research for the Erie decision) had provided:

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“And be it further enacted, That the Statute law of the several States in force for the time being and their unwritten or common law now in use, whether by the adoption from the common law of England, the ancient statutes of the same or otherwise, except where the Constitution, treaties or statutes of the United States shall otherwise require or provide, shall be regarded as rules of decision in the trials at common law in the courts of the United States in cases where they apply.”

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Natural Law v. Legal Positivism

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In contrast to the Court’s focus in Swift on unearthing or discovering truth (a strongly “natural law” model), many commentators highlight the Court’s more legal positivist approach in Erie. The extent to which this decision eliminated the ability of federal courts to rely on “general” law principles when adjudicating state law claims would be further explored in later cases.