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Understanding the jurisdiction question

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In the exciting and unpredictable world of conflict of law cases, the biggest question to be answered is who has the jurisdiction in various situations. Unfortunately, understanding who has jurisdiction is an ever evolving process that is constantly be updated, refined and finessed by various Supreme Court rulings and rulings by lower courts. Let’s take a look at a few of the conventional arguments that you are likely to see in a conflict of law case to help decide whose set of laws reign supreme.

The arguments used in a conflict of laws case will depend directly on what sort of case it is being heard. The overwhelming majority of conflict of laws cases have to do with business dealings that often contain a contract that was signed in one state by residents of different states and there is a question as to which state laws or a federal law actually governs the outcome of that contract. One of the common arguments used to decide jurisdiction is known as The Better Rule Test. In recent years, the Better Rule test has been used less and less because it is often believed that this particular rule is simply an easy way for a court to apply its own jurisdiction over the rules of one or more other states. The rule states that when you lay out the rules of the conflicting states, that one set of laws or rules are simply better than the other. The obvious conflict happens when the judge feels that the laws on the state the court is located in are always automatically better, which is the usual outcome. This rule is not used nearly as often as it use to be.

A second test that some courts use to figure out the proper jurisdiction is known as the comparative impairment test. This test asks the court to look at which state stands to suffer the most if their law is not implemented. This is a more popular test than the subjective Better Law test, but it is also routinely criticized since it doesn’t take in to account which state might benefit more from having their law enforced. It is up to the court and the lawyers to decide on an argument, and for obvious reasons, the lawyers are going to argue for the choice that benefits their client over any other choice.

Finally, the Balance of Interest test was born in the 1950’s and 1960’s and simply takes a objective look at why the various states in question have the laws they do and how those laws came to be. The court will try to analyze which state took more care in crafting their laws, what the main, driving force was behind those laws being created and enforced and the court will try to find a logical pattern or reason behind the two conflicting laws. In essence, it is a logic test to decide who gets jurisdiction. This is the most widely acceptable way to determine which law has jurisdiction in today’s court system.

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