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210. Choice Of Law

Federal statutory law, enacted pursuant to constitutional authority, is clearly controlling over state statutory and decisional law. U.S. Const. Art. VI, cl. 2. Frequently, the federal law applicable in government litigation is decisional rather than statutory. See, e.g., Clearfield Trust Co. v. United States, supra; United States v. Little Lake Misere Land Co., 412 U.S. 580, 590-94 (1973); United States v. View Crest Garden Apartments, Inc., 268 F.2d 380 (9th Cir.), cert. denied, 361 U.S. 884 (1959). Thus, the rights of parties to government contracts and negotiable instruments are to be determined by federal rather than state law. See Clearfield Trust Co. v. United States, supra; United States v. Allegheny County, 322 U.S. 174 (1944); United States v. First National Bank of Atlanta, Ga., supra; cf. Free v. Bland, 369 U.S. 663 (1962). The rationale for this rule is found in the necessity for uniform construction and application of such contracts and instruments throughout the United States. See Clearfield Trust Co. v. United States, supra; T.H. Rogers Lumber Co. v. Apel, 468 F.2d 14 (10th Cir. 1972).

The relationship between federal and state law was significantly affected by the Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Kimbell Foods, Inc., supra. See Commercial Litigation Branch Monograph "Choice of Laws Decisions in Federal Courts after Kimbell Foods" (November 1983).

Updated May 20, 2015