Mr. Adee to Mr. Hardy.
Washington, September 8, 1902.
Sir: I have to acknowledge the receipt of your dispatch No. 70, of the 22d ultimo, with inclosure, from which it appears that one Mrs. Dupre, who was granted a divorce in the State of Massachusetts, with alimony to the amount of $3,000, desires to bring suit against her former husband for payment of the same, and has applied to the authorities of the Canton of Vaud for the recognition of the decree of the Massachusetts court. It is stated that the Vaudois authorities are disposed to grant the necessary recognition provided the legation will furnish an official declaration of reciprocity, stating that a similar judgment of a Vaudois court could be executed in the United States.
In reply I have to say that the general doctrine maintained in the American courts in relation to foreign judgments is that they are prima facie evidence only and not conclusive of the merits of the controversy between the parties. As the judgment in this case was [Page 996] obtained in a Massachusetts court, and as the question presented seems to be whether a similar judgment obtained in the Canton of Vaud would be executed in Massachusetts, the opinion of the supreme court of that State in the leading case of Bissell v. Briggs (Massachusetts Reports, 462) is pertinent. In that case the court said:
A foreign judgment may be produced here by a party to it, either to justify himself by the execution of that judgment in the country in which it was rendered or to obtain the execution of it from our courts. * * * If the foreign court rendering the judgment had jurisdiction of the cause, yet the courts here will not execute the judgment without first allowing an inquiry into the merits.
It is impossible to furnish the declaration of reciprocity which is requested.
I am, etc.,