This section is from the book "The Constitutional Law Of The United States", by Westel Woodbury Willoughby. Also available from Amazon: Constitutional Law.
The application of the foregoing rule, the court go on to say, is not affected by the full faith and credit clause. That clause, and the acts of Congress under it, it is declared, establish a rule of evidence rather than of jurisdiction. "While they make the record of a judgment, rendered after due notice in one State, conclusive evidence in the courts of another State or of the United States, of the matter adjudged, they do not affect the jurisdiction either of the court in which the judgment is rendered or of the court in which it is offered in evidence. Judgments recovered in one State of the Union, when proved in the courts of another government, whether state or national, within the United States, differ from judgments recovered in a foreign country in no other respect than in not being re-examinable on their merits, nor impeachable for a fraud in obtaining them, if rendered by a court having jurisdiction of the cause and of the parties. In the words of Justice Story, . . . 'the Constitution did not mean to confer any new power upon the States, but simply to regulate the effect of their acknowledged jurisdiction over persons and things within their territory. It does not make the judgments of other States domestic judgments to all intents and purposes, but only gave a general validity, faith, and credit to them as evidence. No execution can issue upon such judgments without a new suit in the tribunals of other States. And they enjoy not the right of priority or lien which they have in the State where they are pronounced, but that only which the lex fori gives to them by its own laws in their character of foreign judgments.'"
As being simply evidence, judgments of the courts of one State, when sued upon in another State, are subject, as regards procedure and remedies, to the law of the latter State. For example, the statute of limitations of the State where suit is brought is applied even though it provides a shorter term of years than that existing in the State in which the judgment was originally obtained.8
It has been held in numerous cases that each State of the Union may enforce in its own courts which have jurisdiction of the parties and subject-matters, civil rights of action depending solely upon the statutes of another State, provided there be no local policy of the forum inconsistent therewith. Thus in Dennick v. Central R. R. Co.9 with reference to a suit for damages brought in New York under an act of New Jersey, the court say: "It is scarcely contended that the act belongs to the class of criminal laws which can only be enforced by the courts of the State where the offense was committed, for it is, though a statutory remedy, a civil action to recover damages for a civil injury. It is, indeed, a right dependent solely on the statute of the State, but when the act is done for which the law says the person shall be liable and the action, by which the remedy is to be enforced, is a personal and not a real action, and is of that character which the law recognizes as transitory and not local, we cannot see why the defendant may not be held liable in any court to whose jurisdiction he can be subjected by personal process or by voluntary appearance, as was the case here. It is difficult to understand how the nature of the remedy or the jurisdiction of the courts to enforce it is in any manner dependent on the question whether it is a statutory right or a common law right. Wherever, by either the common law or the statute law of a State, a right of action has become fixed, and a legal liability incurred, that liability may be enforced and the right of action pursued in any court which has jurisdiction of such matters and can obtain jurisdiction of the parties."10
8 McElmoyle v. Cohen, 13 Pet. 312; 10 L. ed. 177; Bacon v. Howard, 20 How. 22; 15 L. ed. 811.
9 103 U. S. 11; 20 L. ed. 439.
In Slater v. Mexican National R. E. Co.,11 applying the same doctrine, the court say: "When such a liability is enforced in a jurisdiction foreign to the place of the wrongful act obviously that does not mean that the act in any degree is subject to the lex fori with regard to either its quality or its consequences. On the other hand, it equally little means that the law of the place of the act is operative outside of its own territory. The theory of the foreign suit is that, although the act complained of was subject to no law having force in the forum, it gave rise to an obligation, an obligatio which, like other obligations, follows the person and may be enforced wherever the person may be found."'
In this case the court go on to declare, however, that if the only source of obligation be the law of the place of the act, that law determines not merely the existence of the obligation, but its extent. "It seems to us unjust,"' the court say. "to allow the plaintiff to come here absolutely depending on the foreign law for the foundation of his case, and yet to deny the defendant the benefit of whatever limitations OB his liability that law would impose."
10 See also Stewart v. B. & 0. R. R. Co., 168 U. S. 445; 18 Sup. Ct. Rep. 105; 42 L. ed. 537. 11 194 U. S. 120; 24 Sup. Ct. Rep. 581; 48 L. ed. 900.
This doctrine is again affirmed and applied in Atchison, etc., R. Co. v. Sowers.12