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Full Faith and Credit Clause

5. 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?

•    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?


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