Atlantic Marine Construction Company v. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas - Oral Argument - October 09, 2013

Atlantic Marine Construction Company v. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas

Media for Atlantic Marine Construction Company v. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - December 03, 2013 in Atlantic Marine Construction Company v. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - October 09, 2013 in Atlantic Marine Construction Company v. U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas

John G. Roberts, Jr.:

We'll hear argument next this morning in Case 12-929, Atlantic Marine Construction Company vs. The United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.

Mr. Hastings.

William S. Hastings:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court:

Forum selection clauses have been frequently used in contracts of all types.

They should be enforced as written and the enforcement of a contractual forum selection clause should not just be left to convenience discretionary balancing tests.

Rule 12(b)(3) in Section 1406 of the United States Code provide appropriate and effective means for enforcing a contractual forum selection clause.

The language of those provisions is written broadly.

Congress used words like “ wrong ” and the rule uses the word “ improper ”, which have plain and natural meanings that are broad and are sufficient to authorize district courts to act to enforce the contractual clause.

Anthony M. Kennedy:

Is -- is it common in the treatises or in the cases to say that a forum selection clause is a venue provision?

I thought venue was something that Congress determined.

William S. Hastings:

Your Honor, the cases do discuss it as a venue provision.

One example would be this Court's decision in Stewart addressed a forum selection clause in a 1404(a) transfer analysis, which is clearly a venue analysis.

In addition to that, with the 2011 amendments to the United States Code, Congress adopted a definition of venue.

It's in Section 1390.

That definition says the place of litigation.

I'm paraphrasing it, but it's -- it's a pretty straightforward definition.

The legislative history of Section 201 of that Act acknowledges that the definition was intended to make venue determinations easier and to make it clearer that parties could waive or adjust these types of provisions even by contract.

The words “ by contract ”.

Samuel A. Alito, Jr.:

In the Stewart case to which you just referred, the court said,

"The parties do not dispute that the district court properly denied the motion to dismiss the case for improper venue under 1406(a). "

because Respondent apparently does business in the Northern District of Alabama, which was not the jurisdiction specified in the forum selection clause.

So what -- if we were to write an opinion in your favor, what would you suggest we say about that?

William S. Hastings:

Your Honor, I believe the correct reading of that language is what the Second Circuit has said in the trade comment decision and others have written on this, that Stewart and -- and the text read by that footnote.

That's Footnote 8, I believe.

The text right there said,

"The immediate issue is how we address 1404(a). "

And the way the majority of the circuit courts have read it is the issue in Stewart, this procedural issue that we're here on today, which is simply not presented to the Court.

And so the Court could very easily write a decision that acknowledges Stewart still controls on a 1404(a) analysis, but acknowledged that, like a majority of the circuits, that Stewart simply did not have to address this problem.

Samuel A. Alito, Jr.:

Well, that's -- that's true, but it means that the entire discussion in Stewart is beside the point.

The Court wrote a decision about an issue that really never should arise because the party seeking -- as you see it, the party seeking to enforce the forum selection clause should proceed under 1406.