Atlantic Marine and the Future of Forum Non Conveniens

Robin Effron

Volume 66, Issue 3, 693-718

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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