TCJL has filed an amicus brief before the United States Supreme Court in Atlantic Marine Construction Company, Inc. v. J-Crew Management, Inc., which is on petition for writ of certiorari to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. The case originated in federal district court in Travis County and arose out of a dispute in a construction contract. The contract contained a forum selection clause that any dispute wouild be determined in a state or federal court in Virginia, Atlantic Marine’s domiciliary state. J-Crew instead filed suit in Austin, arguing that the forum selection clause was unenforceable. The federal district judge agreed, ruling that the court had discretion to set aside a forum selection clause. The Fifth Circuit declined to issue a writ of mandamus compelling the trial court to enforce the forum clause and to dismiss the case for “improper” venue under the federal rules. Instead, the Fifth Circuit followed the minority rule among the federal circuit courts that the trial court may employ a discretionary balancing test under the convenience transfer rules of 28 U.S.C. §1404(a).
In its brief in support of Atlantic Marine’s petition for certiorari, TCJL argues that the Fifth Circuit’s decision contradicts Texas law and encourages forum shopping, putting Texas businesses at a competitive disadvantage in contract disputes over activities conducted in this state. Further, costly and extended satellite litigation simply to determine the choice of venue where a contract provision stipulates an otherwise permissible and appropriate forum is antithetical to the stable, predictable, and efficient administration of justice. The brief points out that Texas law clearly recognizes the validity and enforceability of forum selection clauses, and that the Fifth Circuit’s ruling encourages a party to evade a freely negotiated, fair, and uncoerced agreement to litigate in a particular forum.