Conventional wisdom holds that the world trade system evolved from a power-based to a rules-based regime. “To a large degree,” one of the pioneers of the academic study of international trade notes, “the history of civilization may be described as a gradual evolution from a power oriented approach, in the state of nature, towards a rule oriented approach.” In a steady, unidirectional process of legalization, the argument goes, trade law has gradually replaced trade politics. In particular, the creation ten years ago of the World Trade Organization (“WTO”) is commonly portrayed as a constitutional moment when the stability of the rule of law finally eclipsed the caprices of politics and diplomacy.
Ann-Marie Brege’s parents established an irrevocable trust in 1985, with Ann-Marie as sole beneficiary. When Merrill Lynch Trust Co. took over as trustee years later, however, the trust’s principal dropped sharply, losing over half its value in just a few years. Ann-Marie sued in Michigan probate court, alleging that Merrill Lynch had violated its legal duties in administering the trust. Since Ann-Marie was from New York and Merrill Lynch had its head-quarters in New Jersey, Merrill Lynch had an apparently easy argument for diversity jurisdiction. In an unremarkable turn of events, Merrill Lynch filed a notice of removal to federal district court.