March 2008, Volume 94, Issue 1|
A Doctrine of Full Faith and Credit
94 Va. L. Rev. 247 (2008)
Imagine a judgment from a California state court in which a plaintiff (“P1”) prevails in a civil suit against the defendant (“D”). A second plaintiff (“P2”) brings a related suit in Alabama against D and seeks to estop D from relitigating issues found adverse to D in California. Given the conflict between the preclusion laws of Alabama and California, may the Alabama court choose which state’s law it will enforce? Or does federal law require Alabama to give the California judgment the same preclusive effect that the judgment would have in California? The answers to questions such as these have considerable practical importance. Cost-conscious litigants determine how much they are willing to spend based on the associated risk of loss or probability of gain in any litigation. Uncertainty surrounding the judgment’s preclusive effect will change that analysis. Unfortunately, there is currently no consistent answer to these questions. This Note will argue for a broad understanding of the implementing statute’s scope. This understanding is a clear rule that courts can easily follow, as opposed to a policy-based standard that is difficult to implement. This Note will present a doctrinal theory that both supports such a reading and provides certainty in the application of the implementing statute.
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