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Towards Global Convenience, Fairness, and Judicial Economy: An Argument in Support of Conditional Forum Non Conveniens Dismissals Before Determining Jurisdiction in United States Federal District Courts

Posted by on Friday, July 20, 2012 in Notes, Vol. 41 No. 4, Volume 41, Volumes.

The Supreme Court held in Sinochem Int’l Co. Ltd. v. Malaysia Int’l Shipping Corp., that federal district courts can dismiss cases under forum non conveniens before determining jurisdiction.  The facts of Sinochem did not allow the Court to determine whether a court may conditionally dismiss under forum non conveniens before determining jurisdiction, but this Note argues that district courts should be able to do so.  The issue of conditional dismissal before jurisdiction arises only where subject matter or personal jurisdiction is difficult to determine, forum non conveniens factors weigh heavily in favor of dismissal, and the district court intends to condition the dismissal.  Still, the issue is significant given the increasing frequency and complexity of international litigation in federal courts.  Extending Sinochem to conditional dismissals would (i) provide even more convenience, fairness, and judicial economy than the current federal forum non conveniens jurisprudence; and (ii) more equitably divide the world’s litigation burden across developing countries by encouraging developing countries and the proactive United States Plaintiffs’ Bar to seek alternative, more efficient means of relief for their citizens and clients than the federal forum.

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