The Effect of State Law on the Judge-Jury Relationship in Federal Court
Worf, Richard C., Jr.
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The conventional wisdom says that judge-jury rules in diversity cases are governed solely by federal law. My article shows that, to the contrary, under standard Erie principles, state law should (and often already does) exert meaningful influence where state law provides the rule of decision. I begin with a rigorous reexamination of the relevant Supreme Court precedents in this field, and undertake the first study of what the Supreme Court's decision in Gasperini v. Center for Humanities, Inc. means for the judge-jury area. The framework I develop harmonizes Gasperini and the existing Erie cases, demonstrating that state law may influence the judge-jury relationship in at least three ways: under Erie's constitutional holding, under the Hanna twin-aims test, and under a properly conceived Byrd-balancing test. In the next two Parts, I apply my framework to two crucial problems in diversity litigation: the sufficiency of the evidence and the allocation of issues to judge or jury. Unlike many Erie articles, which focus only on the key Supreme Court cases, mine delves deeply into the federal appellate cases, showing that state law already influences the judge-jury relationship in ways that have gone unnoticed by the major treatises on federal practice and procedure.