Comity in Australia

Academically, the principle of comity is all but dead. Not only is there a distinct lack of literature regarding the principle, but in circumstances where it is addressed it is considered to be of negligible importance for the resolution of modern private international law disputes. However, a review of Australian case law demonstrates that there is a significant disjunct between the academic view of comity and its actual use in judicial practice. In the last ten years, over 850 Australian court decisions have made reference to comity – many of which relate to the field of private international law. In this article, the authors review 77 Australian cases where comity played a definitive role in the resolution of private international law issues. These cases demonstrate that comity is a relevant, useful legal tool to guide the development and application of private international law rules – doing so in a manner that helpfully mediates between the political need to uphold the doctrine of sovereignty and the commercial and judicial need to permit law to act transnationally in order to accommodate international commerce. This is the purpose for which comity was created almost 400 years ago and the examined case law demonstrates that it continues to be effective in reflecting these interests in the law.

Read the paper, by Jason Mitchenson and me, here.

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