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Survey Article


A commentator recently had the temerity to suggest that the reasons for the existence of admiralty law and the admiralty jurisdiction as a separate system of jurisprudence "are not immediately apparent." Certainly the survival of admiralty as a largely unique body of law serving the needs of a single industry must be considered remarkable in this era of judicial reform and modernization. Admiralty is one of the few areas of legal specialization still left where law can frequently be justified on the basis of history rather than reason.

If the work of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is any indication, admiralty is in no danger of extinction. The Fifth Circuit dealt with a wide range of maritime problems during 1976. The court was particularly concerned with the subject of damages in collision and wrongful-death cases and with governmental activity in shipping and the regulation of maritime affairs. The court considered in some detail the jurisdictional aspects of the 1972 amendments to the Longshoremen's and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, but failed to reach a case dealing with claims by harbor workers against shipowners and other third parties.

The cases selected for comment in this article are those primarily concerned with the proper interpretation and application of principles of admiralty law. Cases concerned largely with reviewing the fact findings of trial courts and juries have been. excluded.

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Admiralty Commons