Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



Although the usually proclaimed goals of the United States legal system are "fair play and justice," a person who is injured in some way, who feels that he has had his rights violated, or who seeks to enforce a business agreement, may not necessarily have a remedy in its judicial system. Often a court may claim it lacks power to hear a case because it does not have jurisdiction over the defendant or the subject matter of the suit. Another motive of a court for refusing to hear the case may be simply the necessity to clear its docket. One proposed remedy to such situations is the development of a jurisdiction by necessity doctrine. The doctrine of jurisdiction by necessity would permit assertions of jurisdiction which might be untenable under current jurisdictional standards, but in which a plaintiff has no alternative way to seek a remedy. Adoption of a necessity jurisdiction would promote fair play and justice by giving an aggrieved plaintiff a forum in which to be heard. However, it is difficult to craft the doctrine so that it helps deserving plaintiffs without imposing unfair burdens upon defendants and the court system as a whole.

A typical situation calling for necessity jurisdiction is when a United States plaintiff brings suit against a foreign defendant who has had only limited and scattered contact with the United States. Often the plaintiffs forced to go to the defendant's country even though the cause of action arose in the United States and that foreign forum could be hostile to the United States plaintiff. This Note examines the historical background of jurisdiction from the nineteenth century through the guiding principles of today. A potential basis is then set out for developing a necessity jurisdiction. In addition, this Note examines the positive and negative aspects of such a doctrine.