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Nonresident Parties and Discretion of Court to Exercise Jurisdiction

An American admiralty court may decline jurisdiction by applying the doctrine of forum non conveniens, or accept jurisdiction and refuse to apply that doctrine, where no interest of an American citizen is involved.[i]  District courts may take jurisdiction in admiralty of maritime controversies between foreigners.  However, the power is clearly a discretionary one and the district judge may entertain or dismiss it in the exercise of that discretion.  The court will not ordinarily take cognizance of the case if justice would be as well done by remitting the parties to their home forum.[ii]  A libelant’s privilege to choose his/her forum is a substantial factor in his/her favor in determining whether a transfer should be made under 28 U.S.C.S. § 1404(a) and should not lightly be disturbed.  A court must weigh the convenience of the parties, the witnesses and the court in the light of established criteria.  A libelant’s choice of forum, and his/her personal convenience, are merely factors to be taken into account in arriving at a balance.  Where the balance of convenience is heavily in favor of transfer, other factors will outweigh both libelant’s privilege to choose forum, and his/her personal convenience.[iii]


[i] Swift & Co. Packers v. Compania Colombiana Del Caribe, S. A., 339 U.S. 684 (U.S. 1950)

[ii] Catherall v. Cunard S.S. Co., 101 F. Supp. 230 (D.N.Y. 1951)

[iii] Andino v. The S.S. Claiborne, 148 F. Supp. 701 (D.N.Y. 1957)

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