Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Igor I. Kavass

First Page



The limited use of American case law in the Commonwealth countries should not be surprising. With the exception of English cases, the decisions of other Commonwealth countries receive the same indifferent treatment in all Commonwealth jurisdictions; the English courts studiously ignore the decisions of other Commonwealth countries. For that matter, American courts do not consult the case law of English and other Commonwealth countries all too frequently. Espinoza v. Farah Manufacturing Co. is a recent example in point. In that case, the Supreme Court was asked to interpret the meaning of the terms "nationality" and "national origin" as used. in the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In delivering the opinion of the Court, Justice Thurgood Marshall did not make any reference to the English case of "Ealing London Borough Council v. Race Relations Board" which had been decided by the House of Lords one year earlier. The editor of the book under review discusses the two cases in his essay on race relations and then again in the concluding essay on statutory interpretation, but he does not point out this obvious "parochial" oversight of the United States Supreme Court.

It is, of course, possible that the true quality of the common law is not in its cases, statutes, or other external manifestations. Perhaps its primary influence is indirect, and one must look for the principal attributes of the "migratory" values of the English law as the source for all common law in its uncanny ability to induce local autonomy in each of its successful transplantations and yet make them all cling to certain common traditions in legal methodology, reasoning, and attitude. It is in these areas of jurisprudence that the common law has its greatest impact on societies with other legal traditions or cultures.