A statute denying jurisdiction to the courts of Illinois in
actions for damages occasioned by death occurring in another state
in consequence of wrongful conduct was construed by the supreme
court of the state as applying equally to an action on a
sister-state judgment founded on such a cause of action.
that, so applied, it contravened the full faith and
credit clause of the Constitution. P. 252 U. S.
The law of Alabama, which gives a right of action in that state
for death by wrongful act, cannot, by its declaration that such
actions may not be maintained elsewhere, affect the right to
enforce by action in another state a judgment recovered on such a
cause of action in Alabama. P. 252 U. S.
A judgment of a state supreme court giving a meaning and effect
to a statute of the state which brings it in conflict with the
federal Constitution is reviewable by writ of error. P.
252 U. S. 416
285 Illinois, 188, reversed; writ of certiorari dismissed.
THE case is stated in the opinion.
Page 252 U. S. 413
MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the Court.
This is an action of debt brought in Illinois upon a judgment
recovered in Alabama. The defendant pleaded
Page 252 U. S. 414
to the jurisdiction that the judgment was for negligently
causing the death of the plaintiff's intestate in Alabama. The
plaintiff demurred to the plea, setting up Article IV, §§ 1 and 2
of the Constitution of the United States. A statute of Illinois
provided that no action should be brought or prosecuted in that
state for damages occasioned by death occurring in another state in
consequence of wrongful conduct. The Supreme Court of Illinois held
that as, by the terms of the statute, the original action could not
have been brought there, the Illinois Courts had no jurisdiction of
a suit upon the judgment. The Circuit Court of Kane County having
ordered that the demurrer be quashed, its judgment was affirmed.
285 Ill. 188.
In the court below and in the argument before us, reliance was
placed upon Anglo-American Provision Co. v. Davis Provision
Co., No. 1, 191 U. S. 373
language in Wisconsin v. Pelican Insurance Co.,
127 U. S. 265
former as showing that the clause requiring full faith and credit
to be given to judgments of other state does not require a state to
furnish a Court, and the latter as sanctioning an inquiry into the
nature of the original cause of action in order to determine the
jurisdiction of a court to enforce a foreign judgment founded upon
it. But we are of opinion that the conclusion sought to be built
upon these premises in the present case cannot be sustained.
Anglo-American Provision Co. v. Davis Provision Co.
a suit by a foreign corporation on a foreign judgment against a
foreign corporation. The decision is sufficiently explained without
more by the views about foreign corporations that had prevailed
unquestioned since Bank of Augusta v.
13 Pet. 519, 38 U. S.
-591. Moreover, no doubt there is truth in the
proposition that the Constitution does not require the state to
furnish a court. But it also is true that there are limits to the
power of exclusion and to the power to consider the nature of
Page 252 U. S. 415
the cause of action before the foreign judgment based upon it is
In Fauntleroy v. Lum, 210 U. S. 230
was held that the courts of Mississippi were bound to enforce a
judgment rendered in Missouri upon a cause of action arising in
Mississippi and illegal and void there. The policy of Mississippi
was more actively contravened in that case than the policy of
Illinois is in this. Therefore the fact that here the original
cause of action could not have been maintained in Illinois is not
an answer to a suit upon the judgment. See
5 Wall. 290; Converse v.
Hamilton, 224 U. S. 243
But, this being true, it is plain that a state cannot escape its
constitutional obligations by the simple device of denying
jurisdiction in such cases to courts otherwise competent. The
assumption that it could not do so was the basis of the decision in
International Text Book Co. v. Pigg, 217 U. S.
, 217 U. S.
-112, and the same principle was foreshadowed in
General Oil Co. v. Crain, 209 U.
, 209 U. S. 216
209 U. S. 220
209 U. S. 228
and in Fauntleroy v. Lum, 210 U.
, 210 U. S.
-236. See Keyser v. Lowell,
117 F. 400;
Chambers v. Baltimore & Ohio R. Co., 207 U.
, 207 U. S. 148
and cases cited. Whether the Illinois statute should be construed
as the Mississippi act was construed in Fauntleroy v. Lum
was for the supreme court of the state to decide, but, read as that
court read it, it attempted to achieve a result that the
Constitution of the United States forbade.
Some argument was based upon the fact that the statute of
Alabama allowed an action to be maintained in a court of competent
jurisdiction within the state "and not elsewhere." But when the
cause of action is created, the invalidity of attempts to limit the
jurisdiction of other states to enforce it has been established by
the decisions of this Court. Tennessee Coal, Iron & R. Co.
v. George, 233 U. S. 354
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. Sowers,
213 U. S. 55
had these decisions been otherwise,
Page 252 U. S. 416
they would not have imported that a judgment rendered exactly as
required by the Alabama statute was not to have the respect due to
other judgments of a sister state.
As the judgment below upheld a statute that was invalid as
construed, the writ of error was the proper proceeding, and the
writ of certiorari must be dismissed.