This is a continuation of an existing question: Is there one body of common law?

Now, referring to an article on NPR: On Libel And The Law, U.S. And U.K. Go Separate Ways, it is stated by the journalist Ari Shapiro that normally US courts would honor the UK courts libel rulings. (This, of course, before the new law in the US Congress passed and was signed by Obama.)

My question is by "honoring the UK court's ruling", Ari Shapiro means that the US court would cite the UK court's ruling and then issue its own, separate, new ruling -- correct? As opposed to honoring the UK court's ruling as a straight-out precedent in the same way an appellate court would have to straighten-out honor the ruling of the United States Supreme Court?

Basically, what I am asking is: isn't it true that when it concerns common law and this concept of common laws' common ancient ancestor, any given jurisdiction, say an Australian Court, is not required to follow the common law precedent of another jurisdiction, say a Canadian court? Instead, the Australian court would issue its own new, separate ruling and simply cite the Canadian common law ruling in its own new, separate ruling - correct?

2 Answers 2


This is correct. Rulings in other jurisdictions (even from a court of final appeal in that jurisdiction) are persuasive rather than binding. Even a court of first instance is entitled to say "that's barking mad" and ignore it if they want to.


In that article, Ari Shapiro is talking about enforcing foreign judgments. Enforcing a judgment is a different concept to applying a case as precedent.

What Ari Shapiro is talking about is this: suppose an American 'D' goes to England and commits libel, and someone 'P' sues the American in an English court, and gets a judgment saying 'This American D must pay $100 to P.' There's no point enforcing that judgment in England because D has no assets in England. D's assets are in the US.

For many years, statutes in a lot of jurisdictions have provided that a person in P's circumstances can go to the jurisdiction where D has their assets and register the foreign court order with the local court. Suppose, in this hypothetical example, that D lives in New York. The relevant law in New York is Article 53 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules (CPLR), which is based on the Uniform Foreign Country Money Judgments Act. P could ask the New York Court to issue further orders such as garnishing D's bank account or seizing D's assets. The New York Court would be enforcing the English court's order.

Note that when a local court enforces a foreign court's order, the local court is not redetermining the issues argued in the foreign court. In the case of an order to pay compensation for libel, the local court does not decide for itself whether a libel occurred or whether the foreign court awarded the right amount of compensation. (Courts do have to consider whether the foreign judgment is completely antithetical to local law, but does not otherwise second-guess the foreign court.) The local court only determines that the order was in fact issued by a foreign court and that the order meets the other requirements of the Uniform Foreign Country Money Judgments Act (or other applicable local legislation).

This (enforcing foreign judgments) is totally different to the concept of applying precedent. Applying precedent means that, for example, an English court might determine that leaving a snail in a bottle of ginger beer constitutes negligence, and then a New York court might (in a later case, involving different parties and a different snail) decide that that was a good precedent to follow and apply it, making it part of New York negligence law.

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    Ah ha! So we all agree on the OP's final paragraph, but that is not what the article is about. Good catch. Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 7:50
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    A later case involving different parties and the same snail would raise troubling questions. Commented Apr 10, 2017 at 10:24

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