International Comity in American Law

72 Pages Posted: 1 Feb 2015 Last revised: 22 Dec 2015

William S. Dodge

University of California, Davis - School of Law

Date Written: January 30, 2015


International comity is one of the principal foundations of U.S. foreign relations law. The doctrines of American law that mediate the relationship between the U.S. legal system and those of other nations are nearly all manifestations of international comity — from the conflict of laws to the presumption against extraterritoriality; from the recognition of foreign judgments to doctrines limiting adjudicative jurisdiction in international cases; and from a foreign government’s privilege of bringing suit in the U.S. courts to the doctrines of foreign sovereign immunity. Yet international comity remains poorly understood. This article provides the first comprehensive account of international comity in American law. It has three goals: (1) to offer a better definition of international comity and an analytic framework for thinking about its manifestations in American law; (2) to explain the relationship between international comity and international law; and (3) to challenge two widespread myths — that international comity doctrines must take the form of standards rather than rules and that international comity determinations should be left to the executive branch.

Keywords: international comity, international law, foreign relations law, international litigation

Suggested Citation

Dodge, William S., International Comity in American Law (January 30, 2015). 115 Columbia Law Review 2071; UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper No. 470. Available at SSRN: or

William S. Dodge (Contact Author)

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
Davis, CA CA 95616-5201
United States

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