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Foreign, Comparative, and International Law: International Law: Private

Private International Law

Private international law is better known in the U.S. as conflict of laws, specifically as applied to jurisdictions across national borders. Private international law is frequently applied in commercial and business legal practice, where employment and sales contracts, arbitration decisions, and other business negotiations involve actors or activities in two or more sovereign nations.

Approaching a Private International Law Problem

Problems of private international law typically involve one or more of the following issues:

  • Exercise of Jurisdiction. 
    • In which jurisdiction should the dispute be decided?
    • Is one state's exercise of jurisdiction over a person or activity reasonable?
  • Choice of Law. 
    • If the law of two or more of the states involved have different rules governing a consequential issue, which law should be applied?
    • Will the applicable procedural law differ from the applicable substantive law?
  • Recognition of Judgments. 
    • How should a foreign judgment be enforced?
    • Will recognition be based on bilateral or multilateral treaties or understandings, or unilaterally without an express international agreement?

Like any other legal research problem, it helps to begin with a strategy.

  1. Identify the jurisdictions with a stake in resolving the issue.
    • If a U.S. citizen or company is a party to the legal issue, solving a private international law problem will involve researching the specific laws of both the United States and at least one foreign country.
    • Remember: there is no "private international law" body of law. The researcher must resolve possible conflicts between two or more existing bodies of law.
  2. Consult secondary sources to determine two issues:
    • Look at the jurisdictions involved. Do they have conflict of law rules, either in general or specific to this problem?
    • Is there a treaty or convention governing the topic of the dispute?
    • For help finding material for particular jurisdictions, consult the Foreign Law page of this Research Guide.
  3. Delve into researching the law of foreign jurisdictions and international agreements
    • Once you have determined the possible legal bases (the laws of a jurisdiction, the governing treaty, etc.), continue to consult secondary sources for more information about the application of private international law.
    • Secondary sources will help you pinpoint relevant primary sources.

Additional Resources

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