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Anthony J. Bellia

General law

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General Law In Federal Court, Bradford R. Clark, Anthony J. Bellia Aug 2016

General Law In Federal Court, Bradford R. Clark, Anthony J. Bellia

Anthony J. Bellia

Conventional wisdom maintains that the Supreme Court banished general law from federal courts in 1938 in Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins when the Court overruled Swift v. Tyson. The narrative asserts that Swift viewed the common law as a “brooding omnipresence,” and authorized federal courts to disregard state common law in favor of general common law of their own choosing. The narrative continues that Erie constrained such judicial lawmaking by banishing general law from federal courts. Contrary to this account, Swift and Erie represent compatible conceptions of federal judicial power when each decision is understood in historical context. At the …


Sosa, Federal Question Jurisdiction, And Historical Fidelity, Anthony J. Bellia Oct 2013

Sosa, Federal Question Jurisdiction, And Historical Fidelity, Anthony J. Bellia

Anthony J. Bellia

In his paper "International Human Rights in American Courts," Judge Fletcher concludes that Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain “has left us with more questions than answers.” Sosa attempted to adapt certain principles belonging to the "general law" to a post-Erie positivistic conception of common law while maintaining fidelity to certain historical expectations. “[I]t would be unreasonable,” the Court thought, “to assume that the First Congress would have expected federal courts to lose all capacity to recognize enforceable international norms simply because the common law might lose some metaphysical cachet on the road to modern realism.” The Court was unwilling, however, out …