Bouvier’s Dictionary of Law, 1856COMITY, noun Mildness and suavity of manners; courtesy; civility; good breeding. Wellbred people are characterized by comity of manners.
1. Relating to the comitia or popular assemblies of the Romans, for electing officers and passing laws.
2. Relating to an order of presbyterian assemblies.
Black’s Law Dictionary, 1st edition, 1891 Porto Rico v Rosaly y CastilloCOMITY.
1. Courtesy; a disposition to accommodate.
2. 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 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.
3. It is a general rule that the municipal laws of a country do not extend beyond its limits, and cannot be enforced in another, except on the principle of comity. But when those laws clash and interfere with the rights of citizens, or the laws of the countries where the parties to the contract seek to enforce it, as one or the other must give way, those prevailing where the relief is sought must have the preference. See Conflict of Laws; Lex loci contractus.
"[A government is] sovereign within its own territories. Necessarily, its jurisdiction is exclusive and absolute. It is susceptible of no limitation not imposed by itself. This is the result of its independence. It may be conceded that its actions should accord with natural justice and equity. If they do not, however, our courts are not competent to review them. They may not bring a foreign sovereign before our bar, not because of comity, but because he has not submitted himself to our laws. Without his consent he is not subject to them. Concededly, that is so as to a foreign government that has received recognition."
Smith v. McAtee (1867)
Wex Law Dictionary"Comity is overruled by positive law, and it is only in the silence of any particular rule, affirming, denying, or restraining the operation of foreign laws, that courts of justice will presume a tacit adoption of them by their own government."
Comity of Nations
The principle that one sovereign nation voluntarily adopts or enforces the laws of another sovereign nation out of deference, mutuality, and respect.
Unlike enforcement of judgments between states in the United States (which is governed by the Comity Clause of the Constitution), there is no Constitutional obligation on a U.S. court to recognize or enforce a foreign judgment. Neither is comity of nations embodied in international law. However, sovereign nations still use comity of nations for public policy reasons.
Under comity, a reviewing court does not reopen cases that have already been heard in other courts; instead, it examines the foreign judicial system. After considering factors (such as fairness and impartiality of that foreign system, the foreign court’s personal jurisdiction over the defendant, the existence of subject matter jurisdiction, and the presence of fraud), the reviewing court might choose to respect and enforce that foreign court’s judgments.
Comity of nations is considered in forum non conveniens, antisuit injunctions, antitrust claims, conflict of laws, extraterritorial discovery, and the recognition of foreign judgments.
The legal principle that political entities (such as states, nations, or courts from different jurisdictions) will mutually recognize each other’s legislative, executive, and judicial acts. The underlying notion is that different jurisdictions will reciprocate each other’s judgments out of deference, mutuality, and respect.
In Constitutional law, the Comity Clause refers to Article IV, § 2, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution (also known as the Privileges and Immunities Clause), which ensures that “The Citizens of each State shall be entitled to all Privileges and Immunities of Citizens in the several States.”
“‘Comity,’ in the legal sense, is neither a matter of absolute obligation, on the one hand, nor of mere courtesy and good will, upon the other. But it is the recognition which one nation allows within its territory to the legislative, executive, or judicial acts of another nation, having due regard both to international duty and convenience, and to the rights of its own citizens, or of other persons who are under the protection of its laws.” Hilton v. Guyot, 159 U.S. 113, 163-164 (1895).
THE DISCONTO GESELLSCHAFT, Plff. in Err., v. AUGUSTUS C. UMBREIT. (1908)
"Comity,' in the legal sense,' says Mr. Justice Gray, speaking for this court in Hilton v. Guyot, 159 U. S. 113, 163, 40 L. ed. 95, 108, 16 Sup. Ct. Rep. 139, 143, 'is neither a matter of absolute obligation on the one hand nor of mere courtesy and good will upon the other. But it is the recognition which one nation allows within its territory to the legislative, executive, or judicial acts of another nation, having due regard both to international duty and convenience, and to the rights of its own citizens or of other persons who are under the protection of its laws.'
In the elaborate examination of the subject in that case many cases are cited and the writings of leading authors on the subject extensively quoted as to the nature, obligation, and extent of comity between nations and states. The result of the discussion shows that how far foreign creditors will be protected and their rights enforced depends upon the circumstances of each case, and that all civilized nations have recognized and enforced the doctrine that international comity does not require the enforcement of judgments in such wise as to prejudice the rights of local creditors and the superior claims of such creditors to assert and enforce demands against property within the local jurisdiction. Such recognition is not inconsistent with that moral duty to respect the rights of foreign citizens which inheres in the law of nations. Speaking of the doctrine of comity, Mr. Justice Story says: 'Every nation must be the final judge for itself, not only of the nature and extent of the duty, but of the occasions on which its exercise may be justly demanded.' Story, Confl. L. § 33.
The doctrine of comity has been the subject of frequent discussion in the courts of this country when it has been sought to assert rights accruing under assignments for the benefit of creditors in other states as against the demands of local creditors, by attachment or otherwise in the state where the property is situated. The cases were reviewed by Mr. Justice Brown, delivering the opinion of the court in Security Trust Co. v. Dodd, 173 U. S. 624, 43 L. ed. 835, 19 Sup. Ct. Rep. 545, and the conclusion reached that voluntary assignments for the benefit of creditors should be given force in other states as to property therein situate, except so far as they come in conflict with the rights of local creditors, or with the public policy of the state in which it is sought to be enforced; and, as was said by Mr. Justice McLean in Oakey v. Bennett, 11 How. 33, 44, 13 L. ed. 593, 597, 'national comity does not require any government to give effect to such assignment for the benefit of creditors when it shall impair the remedies or lessen the securities of its own citizens,'
There being, then, no provision of positive law requiring the recognition of the right of the plaintiff in error to appropriate property in the state of Wisconsin and subject it to distribution for the benefit of foreign creditors as against the demands of local creditors, how far the public policy of the state permitted such recognition was a matter for the state to determine for itself. In determining that the policy of Wisconsin would not permit the property to be thus appropriated to the benefit of alien creditors as against the demands of the citizens of the state, the supreme court of Wisconsin has done no more than has been frequently done by nations and states in refusing to exercise the doctrine of comity in such wise as to impair the right of local creditors to subject local property to their just claims. We fail to perceive how this application of a wellknown rule can be said to deprive the plaintiff in error of its property without due process of law.