The Continuing Evolution of U.S. Judgment Recognition Law

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The substantive law of judgments recognition in the United States has evolved from federal common law, found in a seminal Supreme Court opinion, to primary reliance on state law in both state and federal courts. While state law often is found in a local version of a uniform act, this has not brought about true uniformity, and significant discrepancies exist among the states. These discrepancies in judgments recognition law, combined with a common policy on the circulation of internal judgments under the United States Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause, have created opportunities for forum shopping and litigation strategies that result in both inequity of result and inefficiency of judicial process. These inefficiencies are fueled by differences regarding (1) substantive rules regarding the recognition of judgments, (2) requirements for personal and quasi in rem jurisdiction when a judgment recognition action is brought (recognition jurisdiction) and (3) the application of the doctrine of forum non conveniens in judgments (and arbitral award) recognition cases. Recent cases demonstrate the need for a return to a single, federal legal framework for the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments.