Professors to be Honored at Anniversary of Landmark Ruling
SEPTEMBER 17, 2008—The late Professor Irving Younger and Professor Robert Stein are among those being honored Sept. 20, 2008, at a celebration of the 70th Anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's 1938 decision in Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins (304 U.S. 64).
The celebration is being hosted by the Wilkes-Barre Law and Library Association, the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, the state bar associations of New York and Pennsylvania, the ABA, and the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple. The program will be held at the headquarters of the New York City Bar, Manhattan, and will be followed by an evening reception and dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria.
Erie v. Tompkins involved a suit brought against Erie Railroad, a New York state company, by Harry Tompkins for serious injury he sustained when struck by something protruding from a railroad car as he walked beside the tracks in Pennsylvania. He sued Erie for negligence in federal district court. In a landmark decision, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned almost a century of federal civil procedure law and ruled that federal courts must apply state common law, not federal general common law, when hearing state law claims under diversity jurisdiction. Tompkins lost his case under Pennsylvania common law.
Professor Younger, who taught at the Law School from 1984-1988, is being honored posthumously at the celebration with a special award for authoring the classic background article on the case, "What Happened in Erie?," published in a 1978 issue of the Texas Law Review. Professor Stein is being honored for his many years of bar leadership as Executive Director of the ABA.
The guest of honor will be S. Hazard Gillespie, the last living attorney connected with the case, for his extraordinary career in law and his service as President of the New York State Bar Association. Other guests will include U.S. Supreme Court Justices as well as chief justices, judges, state bar presidents, and deans of law schools in the area.