A specter is haunting The Hague—the specter of American federalism. On July 2, 2019, the Hague Conference on Private International Law finalized the Hague Judgments Convention. The Convention seeks to establish a global floor for judgment recognition and promote seamless recognition and enforcement of judgments between signatories. Although virtually all observers in the United States recognize the value and importance of ratifying the Convention, stakeholders cannot agree on how to implement it: by federal statute or by uniform state law. Proponents of a so-called “cooperative federalism” approach to implementation, principally led by the Uniform Law Commission (ULC), have previously derailed U.S. ratification of the Hague Convention on Choice of Court Agreements (COCA) by insisting that principles of federalism required implementation through uniform state law. This argument is wrong as a matter of doctrine and policy. It is time to put it to rest once and for all.
This Note is the first piece of scholarship to squarely address the “cooperative federalism” argument as applied to the Hague Judgments Convention. It makes two principal arguments. First, it identifies the principles that ought to guide the implementation of a treaty on foreign judgments recognition and concludes that federal implementing legislation optimizes these interests. Implementation primarily by
uniform state law is inferior and poses serious disadvantages. Second, the ULC’s primary legal objection to the implementation proposal for the COCA outlined by the State Department—that the doctrine of Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins prohibits federal courts sitting in diversity jurisdiction from applying federal rules of decision prescribed by federal statute—was meritless in 2012, and it is meritless now. If any objections remain to implementing the Judgments Convention by federal statute, they are about turf and ideology. To the extent that the relevant stakeholders want to accommodate those political objections, this Note concludes by briefly outlining areas for compromise.