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The Law of Nations and the United States Constitution$
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Anthony J. Bellia Jr. and Bradford R. Clark

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199841257

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199841257.001.0001

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The Law Maritime and the Constitution

The Law Maritime and the Constitution

(p.113) 5 The Law Maritime and the Constitution
The Law of Nations and the United States Constitution

Anthony J. Bellia

Bradford R. Clark

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines the Supreme Court’s treatment of the law maritime from the founding to the present. In exercising prize jurisdiction, federal courts upheld rights of foreign nations under the law of state-state relations because the Constitution’s allocation of recognition and other foreign relations powers to the political branches required them to do so. In exercising instance jurisdiction, on the other hand, federal courts applied the private law maritime as non-binding general law, much as they applied general commercial law under the Swift doctrine. Two decades before Erie repudiated federal judicial application of general law in diversity cases, however, the Court interpreted Article III’s grant of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction to incorporate the general law maritime as federal law. This decision served to carve out admiralty and maritime law as a unique enclave of federal common law authorized by Article III.

Keywords:   law maritime, admiralty, prize, Article III, Supreme Court, Jensen

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