Questions on Thomas v. Washington Gas Light Co.
1) Stevens rejects McCartin's "unmistakeable language" rule on the
ground that it is up to the Supreme Court, not the states, to determine
the scope of the full faith and credit clause. But why is it contrary
to full faith and credit for a state to say that the courts of sister
states don't have to recognize its judgments to the same extent that
its own courts do? Full faith and credit protects the finality
interests of the state rendering a judgment. It does not say what that state's finality
interests must be.
2) On the other hand, why doesn't the decision in McCartin simply
follow from the fact that the case concerned a settlement agreement and
the agreement specifically said that it did not affect rights under
Wisconsin law? Wasn't it a case about interpreting this settlement
contract, not a question about full faith a credit at all?
3) Given that McCartin's reasoning is rejected, why does Stevens
nevertheless limit Magnolia? Why does the court refuse to give the
Virginia judgment its full preclusive effect? Stevens argues that
Virginia's lacks an interest in preventing DC from giving a subsequent
award. But even if Virginia's interests should matter, why isn't
Virginia interested in the finality of its judgments? Why isn't that
4) Is Stevens right that the Virginia workers comp board's decision
should not be understood as precluding subsequent DC relief because the
Virginia board could not apply the
law of another state? Why should that matter? Furthermore, as
White notes, even a Virginia court of general jurisdiction may be
prohibited by Virginia's choice of law rules from applying anything
other than Virginia law. Would Stevens be willing to say that the
judgment of this Virginia court of general jurisdiction would not bar
the plaintiff from suing for more relief in DC under DC law?
5) How important to Stevens opinion is the idea that the Virginia board
was not a court of general jurisdiction? Consider the following
language from the end of the opinion:
We therefore would hold that a State has no legitimate interest within
the context of our federal system in preventing another State from
granting a supplemental compensation award when that second State would
have had the power to apply its workmen's compensation law in the first
instance. The Full Faith and Credit Clause should not be construed to
preclude successive workmen's compensation awards. Accordingly,
Magnolia Petroleum Co. v. Hunt should be overruled.
Doesn't this suggest a larger exception to Full Faith and Credit?