Salve Regina College v. Russell

PETITIONER: Salve Regina College
RESPONDENT: Russell
LOCATION: Milwaukee County Jail

DOCKET NO.: 89-1629
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1990-1991)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit

CITATION: 499 US 225 (1991)
ARGUED: Nov 27, 1990
DECIDED: Mar 20, 1991

ADVOCATES:
Edward T. Hogan - on behalf of the Respondent
Steven E. Snow - on behalf of the Petitioner

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Salve Regina College v. Russell

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 27, 1990 in Salve Regina College v. Russell

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - March 20, 1991 in Salve Regina College v. Russell

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinions of the Court in two cases will be announced by Justice Blackmun.

Harry A. Blackmun:

The first case is No. 89-1629, Salve Regina College against Russell.

This case comes to us from the Court of Appeals for the First Circuit.

The issue is whether a Federal Appellate Court may review a District Court’s determination of state law under a standard that is less probing than that applied to a determination of federal law.

Respondent filed a diversity action in Federal Court alleging that the petitioner, College, had breached an implied agreement to educate her when it asked her to withdraw from its nursing program for failing to meet certain weight loss commitments.

The District Court concluded that the Supreme Court of Rhode Island would apply the commercial doctrine of substantial performance in this academic setting.

The jury returned a verdict for respondent and the Court of Appeals affirmed.

It held that appellate deference made by a federal judge of that state was not an error.

In an opinion filed today, we reverse that judgment and remand the case.

We hold that a Federal Court of Appeals must review de novo a District Court’s state law determination in a diversity case.

The Chief Justice has filed a dissenting opinion, and is joined by Justice White and Justice Stevens.