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State Arbitration Statutes

Generally, a state arbitration statute is not applicable in admiralty, arbitration being a procedural matter for which federal courts abide by their own laws and rules.  The saving to suitors clause of 28 U.S.C.S. § 1333 makes no affirmative grant of jurisdiction.  It merely excepts from the exclusive admiralty or maritime jurisdiction of the federal courts all cases in which suits may be brought to obtain remedies (other than in admiralty) to which suitors are otherwise entitled.  The jurisdiction of a state court does not exclude the admiralty jurisdiction of the federal courts.  Admiralty jurisdiction is exclusive only as to those maritime causes of action that are begun and carried on as proceedings in rem.  Therefore, if a suit is in personam, a claimant may elect to bring the action either in admiralty or, because of the savings clause, in a state court by ordinary civil action.  However, where the suit is in rem, only the admiralty court has jurisdiction.[i]

U.S. Const. art. III, § 2, cl. 1 provides that the federal judicial power shall extend to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction.  However, Federal court jurisdiction over such cases has never been entirely exclusive.  The “saving to suitors” clause has been interpreted to grant exclusive jurisdiction to federal courts in in rem actions, and concurrent jurisdiction with the state courts in in personam actions.[ii]


[i] Pasternack v. Lubetich, 11 Wn. App. 265 (Wash. Ct. App. 1974)

[ii] Sea-Land Serv. v. Powertex, Inc., 948 F. Supp. 13 (N.D.N.Y 1996)

Inside State Arbitration Statutes