Comity Definition

Cite this article as:"Comity Definition," in The Business Professor, updated March 19, 2019, last accessed December 4, 2020,


Comity Definition

Comity is defined in law as the practice between various political entities and it involves mutually recognizing legislative, judicial and executive acts. Comity is derived from the Latin term comitas.

A Little More on What is Comity

Some of the numerous descriptions of the doctrine international comity include a choice-of-law principle, a rule of public international law, courtesy and diplomacy among many others. However, the authorities have never reached an understanding of whether comity is a rule of law or whether it’s a rule of nature, custom, treaty or domestic law. This doctrine is one of the most confusing ones evoked in cases concerning the interest of foreign states

Dutch jurists Ulrich Huber and together with the others, searched for a method of handling law conflicts in a way which would reinforce the idea of Westphalian sovereignty. He believed in comity being a provision of international law and that the decision of applying foreign law belonged to the state as an act of free will.

Lord Mansfield introduced comity into English Law. He saw the application of comity as discretionary where the courts applied the foreign law but not to the extent of conflicting with principles of natural justice or public policy.

In Hilton v. Guyot (1895) the US Supreme Court held that the enforcement of a foreign judgment as a matter of comity is seen as a statement of comity in international law.

This court stated that in legality, comity could not be seen as either a matter of absolute obligation or just a courtesy and goodwill. Instead, it is the recognition accorded by one nation within its territory to the legislative, executive or the judicial acts of another nation and still having the consideration to international duty and convenience as well as the rights of its citizens or other persons under the protection of its laws.

Various foreign defamation judgments are not recognized as per the SPEECH Act which supplants the comity doctrine in the US. This act is designed at stopping libel tourism.

Professional Licensure      

Some states and territories inside the US recognize professional engineer licenses which are granted in a different jurisdiction by the holder’s education and experience. This is referred to as licensure by comity.

References for Research on Comity

Academic Research on Comity

  • Comity in international law, Paul, J. R. (1991). Harv. Int’l. LJ, 32, 1. This paper describes how comity works in international law and also how it is a significant foundation in US foreign relations law.
  • Against Comity, Weinberg, L. (1991). Geo. LJ, 80, 53. This article presents an argument that courts should be aware of supposed ideals like comity, which is a defense that can defeat meritorious claims for speculative reasons.
  • The comity doctrine, Yntema, H. E. (1966). Mich. L. Rev., 65, 9. This paper proposes a sketch of the background to restore the meaning and consider the appropriateness at the current time of the basic principle of the doctrine of comity.
  • Escaping” International Comity, Ramsey, M. D. (1997). Iowa L. Rev., 83, 893. This paper defends and explains the observations of comity as a symbol of unexplained authority, imprecise meaning and uncertain application whose use confuses inquiries which are supposed to be clear and distinct and also submerges issues that should otherwise be carefully considered.
  • Role of Comity in the Law of Federal Courts, The, Wells, M. (1981). NCL Rev., 60, 59. This article argues that the Supreme Court’s opinion does not distinguish between the cases where comity requires restraint and where it does not.
  • Taking Comity Seriously: How to Neutralize the Abstention Doctrine, Rehnquist, J. C. (1994). Stanford Law Review, 1049-1114. In this paper, an argument is presented stating that a federal court’s abstention is justified in a situation where a duplicative suit is first filed in a state court, and the litigant is provided with an opportunity of raising her federal claim.
  • The transformation of international comity, Paul, J. R. (2008). Law & Contemp. Probs., 71, 19. This article traces the shifts in the meaning, purpose and objective of international comity and determines if the changes are based on historical contexts.
  • Comity and the Constitution: The Changing Role of the Federal Judiciary, Hufstedler, S. M. (1972). NYUL Rev., 47, 841. This paper gives the reasons as to why the court thinks that it has identified sufficient reasons for deferring to state courts in some cases as it continues to permit access to federal courts in other cases.
  • Bankruptcy Code Section 304 and US Recognition of Foreign Bankruptcies: The Trinity of Comity, Morales, S. A., & Deutcsh, B. A. (1983). Bus. Law., 39, 1573. The article explains the bankruptcy section 304 and how the US identifies foreign bankruptcies.
  • National regulation of multinational enterprises: An essay on comity, extraterritoriality, and harmonization, Avi-Yonah, R. S. (2003). Colum. J. Transnat’l L., 42, 5. This is a presentation of a paper which attempts to analyze the applications of national laws o MNEs using a conceptual model that answers numerous queries.
  • Introduction-The Comity Doctrine, Nadelmann, K. H. (1966). Mich. L. Rev., 65, 1. This essay explains the meaning and origin of the comity doctrine which has dramatically impacted American conflicts law.
  • Toward a Jurisprudence of Choice of Law: The Priority of Fairness over Comity, Kogan, T. S. (1987). NYUL Rev., 62, 651. This paper argues that the choice of law is in shambles since conflict scholars have not managed to make the case that the choice of law theory is essential in deciding a wide range of cases.
  • Extraterritorial Antitrust and the Concept of Comity, Davidow, J. (1981). J. World Trade L., 15, 500. This article scopes the role played by international comity in the0 context of Sherman Act enforcement and then traces the development of current tests for enforcing antitrust jurisdiction considering international comity.
  • Comity and Cooperation: Securities Regulation in a Global Marketplace, Testy, K. Y. (1993). Ala. L. Rev., 45, 927. This paper suggests that the time is right for either the SEC or the Congress to act and limit the extraterritorial application of US securities laws in antifraud cases.

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