International comity refers to deference to other countries that is not required by international law. The principle of international comity animates many different doctrines, which can be grouped into three categories: those that defer to foreign governments as litigants (“sovereign party comity”), those that defer to foreign lawmakers (“prescriptive comity”), and those that defer to foreign courts (“adjudicative comity”). Within each of these categories, “positive” comity doctrines use comity as a principle of recognition (such as the recognition of foreign judgments or the application of foreign law), while negative comity doctrines use comity as a principle of restraint (such as foreign sovereign immunity or the act of state doctrine).
When courts refer to the “doctrine of comity” or “comity abstention,” they often mean deference to parallel litigation in foreign courts or foreign bankruptcy proceedings. The Ninth and Eleventh Circuits, however, have invoked “international comity abstention” more broadly to dismiss cases based on foreign relations concerns.
The Supreme Court in Hilton v. Guyot (1895) famously defined international comity as “the recognition which one nation allows within its territory to the legislative, executive or judicial acts of another nation.” That definition is incomplete, however, as comity encompasses much more than the recognition of foreign acts. The Restatement (Fourth) of Foreign Relations Law…Continue Reading
In Société Nationale Industrielle Aérospatiale v. U.S. District Court (1987), the Supreme Court held that U.S. courts need not treat the procedures set forth in the Hague Evidence Convention as the exclusive or even the primary means for managing discovery of evidence located abroad. Four justices dissented in part in a remarkably prescient opinion authored…Continue Reading
Today, it is “well established” that U.S. antitrust law applies extraterritorially to foreign conduct that causes substantial effects in the United States, but this was not always true. When the Supreme Court first addressed the geographic scope of the Sherman Act in 1909, it held that the act applied only to conduct in the United…Continue Reading
The Supreme Court has not explained how federal judges should evaluate parallel litigation in foreign courts. If the same parties are litigating the same issues before a foreign tribunal, should the federal court stay its hand? Or should it proceed until one or the other of the cases results in a judgment? The traditional European…Continue Reading