Full Faith and Credit Clause

Cite this article as: Jason Mance Gordon, "Full Faith and Credit Clause," in The Business Professor, updated January 2, 2015, last accessed April 2, 2020, https://thebusinessprofessor.com/knowledge-base/full-faith-credit-clause/.
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Full Faith and Credit Clause
What is the Full Faith and Credit Clause? State must recognize the laws of other states.

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What is the “Full Faith and Credit Clause”?

Article IV, Section 1 states, “Full faith and credit shall be given in each state to the public Acts, Records, and judicial proceedings of every other state.”

  • Example: State A issues a warrant for the arrest of Jane Smith. If the arrest warrant is transferred to State B for execution, State B may not intentionally fail to recognize the validity of the State A’s warrant.

Restated, Article IV requires that each state recognize the laws of every other state. The only exception to this rule concerns laws that violate the public policy of another state. In such case, a state may refuse to recognize the legality of the foreign law or legal agreement.

  • Example: State A grants marriage licenses and performs marriages for same-sex couples. State B must recognize these marriages as valid. State B may attempt to argue that recognizing the marriages violates public policy. This argument, however, has generally been rejected by the US Supreme Court.

Discussion: Can you think of laws recognized in one state but not another based on public policy? Currently, there is a debate across states regarding each state’s recognition of same-sex marriage. What are the implications of one state recognizing same-sex marriage and others not?

Discussion Input

Practice Question: John sues Donna in Maryland for losses suffered as a result of Donna’s fraudulent business practices. The court rules in favor of John and issues judgment against Donna for $1 million. Instead of paying the judgment, Donna goes to California and resumes her business practices. If John attempts to collect the judgment against Donna, does California have any obligation regarding the recognition and enforcement Maryland’s civil judgment?

Proposed Answer

  • Under the Full Faith and Credit Clause, Article IV, Section I, there is an obligation for one state to adhere to the laws of another state. John will likely have to register the judgment with the State of California and pursue enforcement through methods allowed under California state law

Academic Research

Sachs, Stephen E., Full Faith and Credit in the Early Congress (September 2009). Virginia Law Review, Vol. 95, pp. 1201-1279, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1032676

Borchers, Patrick Joseph, The Essential Irrelevance of the Full Faith and Credit Clause to the Same-Sex Marriage Debate. Creighton Law Review, Vol. 38, p. 353, 2005 . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=899385

Whitten, Ralph U., The Original Understanding of the Full Faith and Credit Clause and the Defense of Marriage Act (November 28, 2010). Creighton Law Review, p. 255, 1998. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1716566

Sanders, Steve, Is the Full Faith and Credit Clause Still ‘Irrelevant’ to Same-Sex Marriage?: Toward a Reconsideration of the Conventional Wisdom (January 1, 2014). Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 89, No. 1, 2014; Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper No. 294. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2464585

Clark, J. Stephen, Conflicts Originalism: The ‘Original Content’ of the Full Faith and Credit Clause and the Compulsory Choice of Marriage Law (December 1, 2015). West Virginia Law Review, Vol. 118, No. 2, 2015. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2984075

Terry, Pamela, E Pluribus Unum? The Full Faith and Credit Clause and Meaningful Recognition of Out-of-State Adoptions (March 7, 2012). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2017812 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2017812

Engdahl, David E., The Classic Rule of Faith and Credit. Seattle University School of Law Research Paper No. 09-10; Yale Law Journal, Vol. 118, p. 1584, 2009. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1308426

Redpath, Elizabeth, Between Judgment and Law: Full Faith and Credit, Public Policy, and State Records (April 25, 2012). Emory Law Journal, Vol. 62, p. 639, 2013. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2046047

Pollack, Sheldon D., Full Faith and Conflict of Law: The Peculiar Legacy of Legal Federalism (March 1, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2571934 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2571934

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