Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



Approximately twelve years have passed since the Supreme Court of the United States promulgated the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure almost simultaneously with its decision in Erie R. R. v. Tompkins.' These two events revolutionized almost every phase of practice in the federal courts. The Rules substituted uniformity for state conformity in federal procedure, while the Erie decision required an adherence to state conformity in matters of substantive law.

As a result of this concurrent, diverse treatment of substantive and adjective law, it was assumed that the Court intended, in future diversity of citizenship cases, to recognize the dichotomy of substance and procedure. This recognition was certainly necessary if the conflicting doctrines of Erie and the Rules of Procedure were to be given full application within the boundaries seemingly established for them by the Court in 1938. Since 1945, however, it has become increasingly apparent that the Court does not intend to be bound by any imaginary line of demarcation between substance and procedure. In 1949, this fact was demonstrated beyond any doubt, when the Court rendered three decisions which extended the doctrine of the Erie case in such a way that state law was made to govern several matters already specifically covered by the Federal Rules...

This article is written with the hope that it may contribute to the elimination of this unfortunate situation. Initially, the Erie decision and the events which led to the adoption of the Federal Rules will be discussed briefly. Then follows an analysis of the important decisions of the Supreme Court which have tended to Erietompkinize many of the Federal Rules. Finally, a solution to the existing problem is proposed. This solution might be adopted by the Supreme Court or Congress in order to clarify federal practice and to insure that justice, not procedural technicality, will prevail in all future diversity of citizenship cases.