Hastings Law Journal


Robin Effron


This Article explores the impact of the Supreme Court’s unanimous opinion in Atlantic Marine Construction Co. v. U.S. District Court on forum non conveniens doctrine. Although Atlantic Marine concerned a § 1404(a) transfer within the federal system, and therefore does not directly address forum-selection clauses pointing to foreign forums, the case will undoubtedly have an impact on how courts treat forum-selection clauses that point to a foreign forum. In this Article, I argue that the Atlantic Marine opinion relies on a strict coupling of § 1404(a) and forum non conveniens for its holding. As a result, lower courts will be more likely to conflate these two doctrines that had been slowly but surely developing on parallel tracks. This Article explains why merging or conflating § 1404(a) and the forum non conveniens doctrine is problematic, both as a general matter and as applied to the specific context of forum-selection clauses. It also demonstrates that the Court’s blunder is symptomatic of problems inherent in current interpretations and applications of the § 1404(a) and forum non conveniens doctrines.

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