Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Arthur R. Louv

First Page



The Constitution and federal statutes of the United States establish three forms of jurisdiction for the federal judiciary--diversity, federal question, and admiralty and maritime. This scheme of multi-based jurisdiction necessarily raises a fundamental problem in our federal judicial system: the interrelation of these grants of power.

Mr. Justice Story, the author of the opinion in Swift v. Tyson, viewed the grants of diversity, federal question, and maritime competence as complementary, and utilized this concept in an attempt to create a uniform body of federal commercial common law. In "Erie Railroad Company v. Tompkins", however, the Supreme Court rejected the principle that the federal courts could "apply the traditional common-law technique of decision" to create a uniform body of federal commercial common law without a specific pronouncement from Congress. Nonetheless, the Erie decision did not result in a collateral retraction of federal maritime competence or in a limitation of the Court's power to develop the body of federal maritime law.