Comity in the United States

A courtesy by which one court defers to another in the exercise of judicial power. Comity is not a rule of law, but rather a practice of convenience. The principle prevents interference by courts in matters appearing before other courts. Comity is based on the proposition that the court that first asserts jurisdiction will be able to take a legal matter to conclusion. Comity is especially important in preserving the autonomy of federal and state courts in the American dual system.

Analysis and Relevance

The principle of comity provides that the courts of one jurisdiction will give effect to the laws and court judgments of another jurisdiction. This occurs not as a function of legal obligation but rather of general deference and respect. Comity is a form of abstention. The abstention doctrine provides that a federal court should not take jurisdiction in a case until appropriate state courts address all questions of state law. The doctrines of comity and abstention are both directed at preventing friction between courts that may have legitimate jurisdictional claims to a case.

Judicial Comity

According to the Encyclopedia of the American Constitution, Comity is the deference paid by the institutions of one government to the acts of another government-not out of compulsion, but in the interest of cooperation, reciprocity, and the stability that grows out of the satisfaction of mutual expectations.

Comity Definition

Courtesy; a disposition to accommodate. Courts of justice in one state will, out of comity, enforce the laws of another state when by such enforcement they will not violate their own laws, or inflict an injury on some one of their own citizens; as, for example, the discharge of a debtor under the insolvent laws of one state will be respected in another state, where there is a reciprocity in this respect. For other meanings of it, read Comity in the Legal Dictionary here.

Practical Information

The practice by which the courts of one state or country follow a statute or judgment (in U.S. law) of another on a like question, though not legally bound to do so. A state will not give the judgment of a foreign country comity if it contravenes its own public policy. Under full faith and credit, as contrasted to comity, the judgment of a sister state must be recognized no matter how erroneous and unjust it may seem to be. (Revised by Ann De Vries)


Find more information on Comity in relation to the Antitrust Implications of Doing Business Overseas in the legal Encyclopedias.

Comity and the International Trade Law

Principle of Comity in the International Business Landscape

Definition of Principle of Comity in the context of U.S. international business and public trade policy: Principle of international law that one country will honor and enforce within its own territory the judgements and decisions of foreign courts.


Notes and References

  1. Definition of Comity from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California
  2. This definition of Comity Is based on the The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary .

See Also

Further Reading (Articles)

The Transformation of International Comity, Law and Contemporary Problems; June 22, 2008; Paul, Joel R.

Cross-Border Bankruptcy Battleground: The Importance of Comity (Part II)., Mondaq Business Briefing; September 8, 2010

Comity, Judicial, Encyclopedia of the American Constitution; January 1, 2000

From Comity To Bill C-55: Evolution Of Cross-Border Insolvency In Canada., Mondaq Business Briefing; November 1, 2006; Bomhof, Scott

The Decline of Comity in Congress., American Political Science Review; March 1, 1995; Patterson, Samuel C.

The FCC’s Call-Back Order: Proper Respect for International Comity?, The George Washington Journal of International Law and Economics; January 1, 1996; Silber, Seth C

Ninth Circuit holds that considerations of “international comity” do not require U.S. court to submit to English court’s injunction against proceeding, where content of forum selection clause is disputed and Plaintiff filed case in U.S. Court prior to Defendant’s filing in English Court that issued injunction., International Law Update; August 1, 2007

The tax injunction act and federal jurisdiction: reasoning from the underlying goals of federalism and comity., Michigan Law Review; March 1, 2010; Fautsch, David

Curbing Comity: The Increasingly Expansive Public Policy Exception of Chapter 15, Georgetown Journal of International Law; March 22, 2013; Buckel, Elizabeth

New York Bankruptcy Court Rejects Comity Based On Public Policy Exception To The Grant Of Comity To Non-U.S. Orders., Mondaq Business Briefing; March 14, 2012

Seventh Circuit: “Comity” Cannot Prevent Class Counsel’s Judge-Shopping, Mondaq Business Briefing; July 27, 2012

Comity needed in politics.(Commentary)(Forum), The Washington Times (Washington, DC); November 22, 1998

Comity in Chapter 15 – and Its Limits, Mondaq Business Briefing; April 24, 2013

In deciding whether to recognize Mexican bankruptcy court order, Fifth Circuit finds that foreign proceeding, to receive comity, must provide defendant with specific notice and opportunity to be heard., International Law Update; October 1, 2003

Reciprocal Comity, Texas International Law Journal; July 1, 2011; Janger, Edward J.

British Columbia Court of Appeal rules that, where U.S. court had affirmatively claimed jurisdiction over same contract dispute, comity dictated that Canadian court should stay its parallel proceeding to avoid inconsistent results and useless multiplication of expense., International Law Update; July 1, 2005

NOC Proceedings: Prohibition Granted on Basis of Comity (Intellectual Property Weekly Abstracts Bulletin: Week of July 16, 2012), Mondaq Business Briefing; July 24, 2012

Second Circuit reverses dismissal of property dispute for trial in Egypt on grounds of forum non conveniens and international comity holding that modest involvement of foreign law does not warrant dismissal where Canadian plaintiffs’ choice of U.S. forum is substantially justifiable., International Law Update; May 1, 2006

Supreme Court of Canada Denies Leave to Appeal in “PM(NOC)” Judicial Comity Case, Mondaq Business Briefing; May 14, 2013

From Slavery to Same-Sex Marriage: Comity versus Public Policy in Inter-Jurisdictional Recognition of Controversial Domestic Relations, Brigham Young University Law Review; November 1, 2008; Wardle, Lynn D.

Comity: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Comity. This part provides references, in relation to Comity, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Comity by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Comity and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Comity or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Comity and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Comity. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Comity should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Comity when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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