Friday, May 3, 2013

Balkin on Erie

Over at Balkinization, Prof. Jack Balkin (Yale) has a post entitled Erie Railroad v. Tompkins and the New Deal Constitution. It begins:

Last week Richard Epstein and I were on a panel at AEI on the New Deal Constitution, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the decisions in Erie Railroad v. Tompkins and United States v. Carolene Products.  The video is available here.  Michael Greve kicks it off with a fifteen minute introduction to the two cases; Richard's talk begins about 14:30, and my talk begins about 24:55.  I discussed both Erie and Carolene Products in my talk; in this blog post, I will say a few words about Erie.

Erie is often associated with the New Deal, because it resulted in a kind of federal judicial restraint.  Henceforth, federal courts had to defer to state common law decisions in diversity cases. Nevertheless, in my talk, I pointed out that Erie's connection to New Deal ideas was quite contingent.  If Erie had been decided in 1948, after Darby and Wickard, rather than in 1938, the course of history might have looked very different.  It might not have seemed all that important to overrule Swift v. Tyson, and Erie might have come out the other way.


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