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Hanna v. Plumer

Hanna v. Plumer

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Published by: crlstinaaa on Apr 08, 2008
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09/27/2012

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De-Constitutionalizing ErieCase: Hanna v. PlumerProcedural History: The District Court granted summary judgment to the executorfor the plaintiff's failure to make adequate service of process, ruling that thestate rule applied based on the Supreme Court's prior precedents. The UnitedStates Court of Appeals for the First Circuit affirmed. Now before the SupremeCourt.Facts: Plaintiff (from Ohio) sues on a personal injury claim a resident of MA inMA district court. Defendant is deceased at the time of suit, and so the nameddefendant is the executor. The Massachusetts rule at the time required personalservice of process on the executor of an in-state defendant, while Federalrequired only that service be made on a competent adult at the residence of thedefendant. The plaintiff left process at the residence of the executor, and socomplied with the federal rule but not the state rule.Issue: In a diversity suit in Federal court, should the service of process bemade in the manner prescribed by state law or federal law?Holding: Ruling Reversed. It was appropriate to apply federal rule and not statelaw.Reasoning: In reaching this decision the Court stated that the "rule" inGuaranty Trust Co. v. York that state and federal courts should reach outcomessubstantially the same was not a "talisman" and that there were more basicprinciples governing Erie Railroad v. Tompkins and its offspring (that is, casesdealing with how Federal courts should apply state law). The purpose of Erie wasto 1) discourage "forum shopping" and 2) avoid inequitable administration of laws.The current case must be viewed in this light. While the outcome of the currentcase is determined by which law is applied, the rights in question are notsubstantial enough to create problems of unequal protection. Furthermore, in Erieand its offspring there was no explicit conflict between state and federal rules.Thus, in those cases the Court held not that state rules trumped federal rules butthat the federal rules, narrowly construed, did not cover the dispute. In thecurrent case the federal and state laws are in direct conflict. The court has beeninstructed to follow the Federal Rule in these cases and there is noconstitutional reason not to do so.In short, outcome determinative judgments are important for deciding if a state orfederal rule applies but in the current case denying the federal rule would removeany power whatsoever the federal courts have over their procedures.Notes• Rules of process substantive or procedural?Ruled that they are procedural
§ Here there is a fed civil proc that dictates the practice• Rules Enabling Act• How could a fed rule of civ proc be substantive?P234 (posting bonds) - to make the suit harder to file (discourage
 lawsuits)Cant file complaints without paying taxes
Under Hanna, these would be procedural
But these state policies are substantive. Social policies that the states
 

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