The Role Of Uniform Law In The United States

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Almost seventy years ago Professor Hessel Yntema wrote that a large and diverse country needs a complex governmental structure that balances national interests and local liberties. The resulting complexity is accentuated by history. The United States traces its roots to geographically dispersed communities of migrants from different countries. They brought with them different cultural baggage. Followed by rapid industrialization, this introduced new problems and worsened old ones. Industrial accidents, complex corporate structures, labour unions and urbanization have induced increasingly detailed regulation. Yet, despite this complexity and diversity, Professor Yntema suggests that there is a fundamental unity of law in the United
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Unification of law
Little has changed in the United States since Professor Yntema wrote about the unification of law, seventy years ago. Federalism remains vibrant and cultural roots continue to diversify. But, law in the US is no less uniform than it was seventy years ago, it can be argued that it is even more uniform today. The institutions as mentioned above are mostly responsible for this continuance of unification.
The uniform law movement began in 1892 with the first meeting of the National Conference of the Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. The American Bar Association created the Conference. The Conference’s task was to propose uniform legislation that might be adopted by all the states. One reasoning behind the work of the Conference has been the ‘necessity’ for uniform law. The creation of uniform law was seen as a necessary state response to nationwide economic development. There are a few institutions that have focused on uniformity of domestic law to meet domestic needs. I will discuss them
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Federalisation of law by Constitutional Decisions of the US Supreme Court
Supreme Court decisions instantly bring legal unification. The Court is best at prohibiting contradictory legislation, but also does well on prescribing positive legislation. Where the Court does prescribe these specific rules, typically these norms overwhelm any state rules. For example, on January 21, 1973, first-trimester abortion was legal in some states and illegal in others. On January 22, 1973, when the Supreme Court decided the case of Roe v Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973), it became legal in all states.
While this approach has the upside of immediate applicability, it also has drawbacks. When constitutionalizing an issue you largely eliminate legislative solutions. These legislative solutions can be political compromises. They can change as political temperaments change. They can make clear rules that are easy to apply, but may not be that easy to justify. Constitutional solutions are, by the nature of American constitutional decision-making, judge-made solutions, normally no clear rules. They invite litigation to change them or just to determine what they mean, for there is no other way to obtain an authoritative interpretation. Other examples of unifying law through the US Supreme Court are the ‘Brady materials’ and the ‘Miranda
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