National Jurisdiction and Global Business Networks

Hannah L. Buxbaum
Executive Associate Dean for Academic Affairs
Indiana University Maurer School of Law

On November 1, 2007, Professor Buxbaum delivered the ninth annual Snyder Lecture at the University of Cambridge in the Lauterpacht Centre for International Research.

It is a great honor for me to deliver the ninth Snyder Lecture. I have had the pleasure of attending many of the previous lectures delivered in Bloomington by members of the Cambridge faculty. I have also had the pleasure of hearing from those of my students who were given the opportunity to conduct research at the Lauterpacht Centre as Snyder Fellows. Our faculty is very grateful for Earl Snyder’s generosity in supporting these intellectual exchanges between our schools, and I personally am very grateful for this opportunity to address you.

I will speak today about the exercise of jurisdiction by U.S. courts over global business networks. There are many ways in which the activities of U.S. courts intersect, and have long intersected, with international business activity, and so this topic calls up in part the procedural issues that are the bread and butter of international civil litigation. U.S. courts regularly assert personal jurisdiction over foreign corporations on the basis of their activities in the United States; they apply U.S. law to foreign conduct that is seen to harm certain interests within the United States; they enforce agreements that send cross-border contract disputes over into the transnational arbitration system.

But while some of those practices are mundane and, at least in theory, unobjectionable, others are problematic, and from time to time a specific case or group of cases will trigger a resurgence of attention to the role that U.S. courts play in the international arena. I would point to the Uranium litigation of the mid-1970s 1 and the spate of Alien Tort Claims Act cases that began in the mid- to late 1990s 2 as examples of this. In this first decade of the 21st century, litigation involving international

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