Vanderbilt Law Review


Harold G. Maier

First Page



This Article is prepared at the request of the Editorial Board of the Vanderbilt Law Review in commemoration. It, however, is not designed as a tribute to Cheatham--the man and the teacher. Tributes of that kind were collected and published four years before his death in the December 1968 issue of the Review. In this essay, I have attempted to analyze Elliott Cheatham's scholarly contributions in the field of conflict of laws, one of his two major areas of legal research. When I began its preparation, it was with a deep feeling of personal involvement since Elliott was responsible for much of my own early development and growth of understanding in conflict of laws. As the work progressed, however, it became apparent that it was in part unfair to assess the contributions of a single man in a rapidly developing field in which the interactions of many have served as mutual stimuli and in which the end product of each is the result of constant influence by numerous others.Thus, this Article does not attempt to trace and identify all of those sources that influenced Elliott Cheatham in the conclusions he reached,nor will it attempt a comprehensive cataloging of all of the cases, articles, and books that his work either directly or indirectly influenced.Rather, this essay resembles an extended book review. Unlike the re-viewer of a book who deals with his subject usually within one year of its publication, this "reviewer" has had the opportunity to assess the life's work of an individual in a single area of his expertise. Consequently, the evaluations and commentary can include an assessment of the impact of Cheatham's various works over a period of three decades.The advantages of hindsight are not slight. This Article is divided into two principal sections. The first deals with Elliott Cheatham's work in federal-state conflict of laws problems. It considers Cheatham's basic theories, his commentary on the development of the Erie Doctrine, his work in international conflicts, his explanation of the sources and development of the body of federal common law, and his search for the appropriate measure of federal control over state choice of law. The second segment considers his work in more traditional interstate choice of law. It discusses his search for the fundamental sources that he believed should guide the formulation of inter-state and international choice-of-law rules and includes a comparison of Cheatham's work with the work of other scholars whose theories were closely related to his. To the extent that this Article provides some useful insight into the life's work of a fine scholar and a close friend and colleague, it will not only serve its commemorative function, but perhaps will discharge in small part the large intellectual debt that its author owes to the man who is its subject.