State Judgments in Sister-State Courts

The federal Constitution requires that a judgment from a sister state of the United States be entitled to “full faith and credit” in every court within the United States.  Thus, a sister state judgment rendered by a court with adequate subject matter and personal jurisdiction effectuates collateral estoppel and res judicata nationwide.

A judgment rendered in a “sister” state or territory of the US is referred to as a “foreign judgment”.   All states in the US, except Indiana, Massachusetts and Vermont, but including the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands have adopted the Uniform Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act, which requires states and territories to give effect to judgments of other states and territories.

To enforce a judgment in or from a state that has not adopted the Uniform Act, the holder of the judgment needs to file a suit known as a “domestication” action.  Since the full faith and credit clause of the US constitution requires that states honor the judgments of other states, the domestication action is generally a formality.

Inside State Judgments in Sister-State Courts