This article previews the issues and arguments in Choo v. Exxon Corporation, on the Supreme Court’s 1987-88 docket. The issue here is whether a federal district court can, consistent with the Anti-Injunction Act, enjoin a state court from hearing a lawsuit that the federal court dismissed on forum non conveniens grounds. A corollary issue is whether, In the Interests of federalism, the state court should be able to determine the scope of its own forum non conveniens doctrine, or whether the state court is bound by federal maritime forum non conveniens rules.
The wholesale flocking of injured foreign litigants to American courts, seeking to take advantage of the American system of justice and redress, sets the stage for this Supreme Court case. In this case, various procedural maneuvers to secure a hearing in some American forum has given rise to significant issues concerning the relationship between the federal and state court systems. In particular, the Court must now decide whether a federal court, which has dismissed a lawsuit on the basis of forum non conveniens, can also prevent a state court from then hearing that same lawsuit. In Its broadest sense, this litigation challenges the amicable relations between federal and state courts.
The narrowest legal issue the Supreme Court will decide in this case is whether a federal court can enjoin a state court from adjudicating a lawsuit that the federal court dismissed on forum non convenlens grounds. The resolution of this issue will turn on the court's interpretation of the applicability of the Anti-Injunction Act. No doubt the Supreme Court will grapple with both the technical and theoretical legal issues. But as a practical matter, what is fundamentally at stake here is whether the Supreme Court is going to permit the federal courts to close the court doors ― both federal and state ― to foreign litigants. This is the so-called "floodgates" issue, and it implicates questions of foreign policy and International relations. Ultimately, the Supreme Court has to decide If it is permissible for the federal government to close the doors of Texas state courts, or if it is within Texas sovereign right to decide to embrace the litigious masses of the world.
Linda S. Mullenix, Desperately Seeking Texas: Federal Injunction of the World's Forum of Last Resort, 1987-88 Preview of U.S. Supreme Court Cases 354.