Erie Doctrine

Definition - What does Erie Doctrine mean?

The Erie Doctrine, based on the United States Supreme Court decision in Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins in 1938, requires federal courts presiding over cases that involve a state law issue to apply the state’s law to arrive at a decision.

The Erie Doctrine requires federal judges to study and understand state law in addition to mastering federal common law.

Justipedia explains Erie Doctrine

The Erie Doctrine applies when federal courts hear cases on the basis of diversity jurisdiction. Diversity jurisdiction arises when plaintiffs and defendants reside in different states and no state court has jurisdiction.

The Erie Doctrine stems from the long-standing debate over state rights and federal power that has existed since the United States was founded. Considered a victory for states rights advocates, the Erie Doctrine burdens federal judges with becoming experts in federal jurisprudence as well as in the various state jurisprudences from which they may take cases.

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