This following article was originally published in May 2001 by the Washington State Bar News. To access a full copy, please contact John Sullivan.
The U.S. Constitution guarantees that a judgement of a Washington court will be given “full faith and credit” in all other American courts. This ensures that a judgement obtained in Washington can be enforced in the other 49 states, without having to re-litigate the matter.
But what if you need to enforce your Washington judgement in Canada? The “full faith and credit” clause is of no assistance to you once you cross the 49th parallel, as the U.S. Constitution does not apply to Canada. Will Canadian courts recognize and enforce U.S. judgements, or will you have to re-litigate the matter in a Canadian court, and prove your case once again, in order to seize Canadian assets?
The answer is of vital importance to Washington attorneys. The proximity and relative wealth of both nations have made the U.S.-Canada relationship the largest, most successful trading relationship the world has ever seen. With over a billion dollars’ worth of trade between Canada and the United States every day, Canada is America’s largest trading partner by far. In fact, in 2001 Canada bought more U.S. exports ($163.7 billion) than the entire 15 nations of the European Union combined ($159.2 billion). And of course, intertwined economies mean cross border disputes.