Full Faith and Credit Clause

Author:Jeffrey Lehman, Shirelle Phelps
 
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The Full Faith and Credit Clause?Article IV, Section 1, of the U.S. Constitution?provides that the various states must recognize legislative acts, public records, and judicial decisions of the other states within the United States. It states that "Full Faith and Credit shall be given in each State to the public Acts, Records, and judicial Proceedings of every other State." The statute that implements the clause, 28 U.S.C.A. § 1738, further specifies that "a state's preclusion rules should control matters originally litigated in that state." The Full Faith and Credit Clause ensures that judicial decisions rendered by the courts in one state are recognized and honored in every other state. It also prevents parties from moving to another state to escape enforcement of a judgment or to relitigate a controversy already decided elsewhere, a practice known as forum shopping.

In drafting the Full Faith and Credit Clause, the Framers of the Constitution were motivated by a desire to unify their new country while preserving the autonomy of the states. To that end, they sought to guarantee that judgments rendered by the courts of one state would not be ignored by the courts of other states. The Supreme Court reiterated the Framers' intent when it held that the Full Faith and Credit Clause precluded any further litigation of a question previously decided by an Illinois court in Milwaukee County v. M. E. White Co., 296 U.S. 268, 56 S. Ct. 229, 80 L. Ed. 220 (1935). The Court held that by including the clause in the Constitution, the Framers intended to make the states "integral parts of a single nation throughout which a remedy upon a just obligation might be demanded as of right, irrespective of the state of its origin."

The Full Faith and Credit Clause is invoked primarily to enforce judgments. When a valid judgment is rendered by a court that has jurisdiction over the parties, and the parties receive proper notice of the action and a reasonable opportunity to be heard, the Full Faith and Credit Clause requires that the judgment receive the same effect in other states as in the state where it is entered. A party who obtains a judgment in one state may petition the court in another state to enforce the judgment. When this is done, the parties do not relitigate the issues, and the court in the second state is obliged to fully recognize and honor the judgment of the first court in determining the enforceability of the...

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