Such policy consideration must be neither arbitrary nor fundamentally unfair.
The Equal Protection Clause requires that all states must provide parties with an opportunity to file their claims. Denying a litigant such opportunity based on jurisdiction is unlawful unless there is a procedural justification for doing so.
The Privileges and Immunities Clause requires that all states treat all citizens, both citizens of the state and citizens of other states, the same. This means that the courts must provide all individuals access to the state courts without qualification. These privileges and immunities are considered fundamental and therefore afforded special attention.
Enforcement of Foreign Judgments
The judgments of one state's judgments are not necessarily enforceable in another state. However, there is a public interest in providing that judgments in one state should be enforceable in other states. This public interest is in ensuring that there is legal certainty which avoids repeated litigation and the possibility that conflicting results might occur. On the other hand, states also have an interest in making sure that judgments granted in other jurisdictions are not deficient or violate a state's public policy. The conflict of law principles govern these concerns and mediate between the competing interests.
The recognition of judgments between the various states presents the courts with only limited problems. In the interest of judicial economy, most such judgments are afforded enforcement. As the world becomes more global, however, the enforcement of foreign judgments has become increasingly more problematic. This is an area of the law that is receiving increasing scrutiny. The issue of whether or not the courts will generally recognize and enforce a foreign judgment turns on a determination of whether or not the court granting the judgment had proper jurisdiction. Such determination is based on the law of the recognizing court and not the law of the judgment granting court.
Conflict of Laws
The area of the law identified as the conflict of laws involves the determination of what jurisdiction's law will apply in the litigation of a particular cause of action. For example, in the case of a claim arising from a contract signed between two parties. The question as to which law applies to such transaction may occur because the contract is signed in one state and then mailed to another state for another signature. It is entirely possible that the parties stipulated in their contract which state law is to be employed in any litigation arising from said contract but it is also possible that the parties did not so stipulate. In this situation there may be a problem as to a variety of issues relative to the contract including when the contract becomes recognized, how specific terms in the contract are to be interpreted, and what the respective duties and obligations of the parties are under the terms of the contract. Under the circumstances given, the question becomes which state laws should apply to the contract? In simplest terms, the general rule is that the court hearing the case should apply the law that has the closest connection with the contract but making such determination is not always an easy proposition.
Until approximately fifty years ago the traditional method of resolving disputes relative to the choice of law was to utilize what is often referred to as the territorial rules. These rules, which were eventually embodied in the First Restatement of Conflicts, are based on the vested interest theory. This theory states that a litigant's rights relative to a cause of action are vested at a particular place and time. Under this theory, although a case might be filed in one jurisdiction, the court in another jurisdiction might still apply the law of another jurisdiction to resolve the claim.
Through time, however, the territorial approach began to be criticized. One of the major criticisms was that the approach was arbitrary in that it resolved in a state's right in litigation stopping at its borders. As society became more mobile, it was determined that the territorial approach was inequitable and resulted in unfair verdicts. Proponents of the approach, however, argued that it provided a consistency that was needed and it discouraged shopping for the most advantageous forum. What has emerged is the debate regarding the rules approach to conflict resolution as exemplified by the territorial approach and the standards approach which has been subsequently adopted by a number of jurisdictions throughout the country.
As indicated earlier, in some circumstances, most often in contract disputes, the parties have agreed upon which laws they will depend in litigating their differences. This is an ideal situation for the court but there are obviously claims that are not contractual in nature and these claims may present facts that are external to the forum state. In such situations, determining whether the laws of a foreign jurisdiction are to be applied or the laws of the forum state is important to the outcome of the case. In making this determination not all jurisdictions now apply the territorial method as other approaches are now available.
The easier approach for the courts when presented with a potential conflict of laws situation is to apply the law of the forum jurisdiction. Such application is less costly and more efficient. The lawyers and judges are most familiar with the forum law and therefore more comfortable. Applying the laws of a foreign jurisdiction can be difficult and the involved parties must be careful to properly apply it but legal disputes are not always so neatly packaged and, thus, conflicts of law situations do occur.
The current state of the law in conflict resolution is that there is a difference of opinion as to whether a rules based approach should be utilized or a standards based one. The argument for the traditional rules approach is that it provides predictability and enhances the uniform treatment of all similarly situated litigants. Advocates for the standard based approach rely upon the argument that the better law should be applied and that such law is the one that achieves the most just result with the court shouldering the responsibility of determining what such result might be. Unfortunately, even though this approach might seem simple in theory, in application, it becomes far more complicated.
What has developed over time in jurisdictions adopting the standards approach is the use of the significant relationship test for deciding claims involving conflicts in laws? Making determinations under this test courts must consider a number of factors. Included among these factors are the relevant policies of the forum; the relative policies of the interested other jurisdictions; certainty, predictability and uniformity of result; and the ease in the application of the foreign law. These and other factors guide the courts in making a determination as to which law to apply in an effort at obtaining the most just result for the involved litigants.
None of the approaches used by the courts to make decision in conflict cases has received universal support. There are problems with all approaches. The standards approach provides judges with the most flexibility but the rules approach provides more certainty and consistency. Legal scholars continue to debate the merits of all approaches in determining conflict of law claims and, as the world becomes more global, the debate can be expected to continue. What is important is that any conflict of laws determination should take into account the relative interests of the parties while not discarding the state's interest in protecting parties' expectations, providing consistency, and minimizing the cost of litigation. The availability of forum shopping by litigants must be minimized as much as possible and a consistent body of law in the area of conflicts serves to achieve this result. Unfortunately, the present state of the law in regard to conflicts remains in flux as the states attempt to uncover the best method for protecting the various state interests while still providing litigants the opportunity of achieving the most fair result.…