Monday, April 1, 2013

SCOTUS Cert Grant of Interest: Atlantic Marine Construction v. U.S. District Court

Today the Supreme Court granted certiorari in Atlantic Marine Construction Co. v. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas (No. 12-929). The case involves the interplay between forum-selection clauses and motions to transfer venue. Here are the questions presented:

Following the Court’s decision in M/S Bremen v. Zapata Off-Shore Co., 407 U.S. 1 (1972), the majority of federal circuit courts hold that a valid forum-selection clause renders venue “improper” in a forum other than the one designated by contract. In those circuits, forum-selection clauses are routinely enforced through motions to dismiss or transfer venue under Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(3) and 28 U.S.C. § 1406. The Third, Fifth, and Sixth Circuits, however, follow a contrary rule. This Petition presents the following issues for review:

1. Did the Court’s decision in Stewart Organization, Inc. v. Ricoh Corp., 487 U.S. 22 (1988), change the standard for enforcement of clauses that designate an alternative federal forum, limiting review of such clauses to a discretionary, balancing-of-conveniences analysis under 28 U.S.C. § 1404(a)?

2. If so, how should district courts allocate the burdens of proof among parties seeking to enforce or to avoid a forum-selection clause?

You can find a link to the Fifth Circuit’s decision below and other information about the case at SCOTUSblog’s casefile.


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