J-Crew Management Inc.

UT law professor William Allensworth presented a case before the U.S. Supreme Court during oral arguments on Wednesday.

The case is about legal contract clauses that determine where legal action will be held if necessary, and whether the contract can be overturned by states that seem to have jurisdiction.

“I think the argument went well,” Allensworth said. “The justices were engaged, they certainly understand the parties’ positions.”

Allensworth argued for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas as a representative of J-Crew Management, Inc. 

In 2009, the Atlantic Marine Construction Company, Inc. hired J-Crew to provide materials and work for the construction of a children’s center in Fort Hood. After the project’s completion, J-Crew sued Atlantic Marine in a federal court in Austin for $159,000 the company claimed it was still owed. 

Allensworth said the case will be decided on the basis of statutory interpretation and with consideration given to forum selection clauses.

During the argument, Justice Stephen Breyer said the numbers were against Allensworth because there are only three appellate circuits in the U.S. that weigh factors such as state jurisdiction over contractual clauses while there are five appellate circuits that abide by the contract.

The statutory interpretation does favor his position, Allensworth said afterward. He is concerned that there may be a remand to the district court to weigh additional factors.

“I was able to get in and out of the courtroom with my head,” Allensworth said. “And I think the justices enjoyed hearing an argument about a real dispute involving real parties.

William Allensworth, attorney and adjunct law professor at UT, argued Wednesday before the U.S. Supreme Court in a case involving contract law and legal forum selection.

Allensworth argued on the side of the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas as a representative of J-Crew Management, Inc. 

In 2009, the Atlantic Marine Construction Co. hired J-Crew to provide materials and work for the construction of a children’s center in Fort Hood. After the project’s completion, J-Crew sued in a federal court in Austin for more than $160,000 the company claimed it was still owed. 

Atlantic Marine contested the jurisdiction of the lawsuit because of a contractual agreement that all litigation should be pursued in Virginia.

Allensworth argued the lawsuit should be handled in Texas courts because the bulk of work performed took place in Texas, so Texas courts seemed the logical selection for legal arbitration.

“[The western district of Texas] is where we performed our work, where the project’s located, where all the witnesses reside and where virtually all of the evidence is located,” Allensworth told the justices, according to a transcript of oral argument released by the Court.

Justice Elena Kagan expressed skepticism, saying both parties in a lawsuit must adhere to a pre-negotiated forum, even if another forum seems more convenient.

“[You had] a negotiated contract, that you accepted in convenience, and … you got something for your … acceptance of inconvenience,” Kagan said. “The end. You have to live with your contract.”

Allensworth will know the decision in the case by early July, when the justices announce decisions from the October oral arguments.