Watkins v. Conway, 65

Decision Date05 December 1966
Docket NumberNo. 65,65
Citation87 S.Ct. 357,385 U.S. 188,17 L.Ed.2d 286
PartiesRobert D. WATKINS, Appellant, v. J. F. CONWAY
CourtU.S. Supreme Court

William G. Vance, Atlanta, Ga., for appellant.

Martin McFarland, Atlanta, Ga., for appellee.


This litigation began when appellant Watkins brought a tort action against Conway in a circuit court of Florida. On October 5, 1955, that court rendered a $25,000 judgment for appellant. Five years and one day later, appellant sued upon this judgment in a superior court of Georgia. Appellee raised § 3—701 of the Georgia Code as a bar to the proceeding:

'Suits upon foreign judgments.—All suits upon judgments obtained out of this State shall be brought within five years after such judgments shall have been obtained.'

The Georgia trial court gave summary judgment for appellee. In so doing, it rejected appellant's contention that § 3—701, when read against the longer limitation period on domestic judgments set forth in Ga.Code §§ 110—1001, 110—1002 (1935), was inconsistent with the Full Faith and Credit and Equal Protection Clauses of the Federal Constitution. The Georgia Supreme Court affirmed, also rejecting appellant's constitutional challenge to § 3—701. 221 Ga. 374, 144 S.E.2d 721 (1965). We noted probable jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1257(2). 383 U.S. 941, 86 S.Ct. 1200, 16 L.Ed.2d 205 (1966).

Although appellant lays his claim under two constitutional provisions, in reality his complaint is simply that Georgia has drawn an impermissible distinction between foreign and domestic judgments. He argues that the statute is understandable solely as a reflection of Georgia's desire to handicap out-of-state judgment creditors. If appellant's analysis of the purpose and effect of the statute were correct, we might well agree that it violates the Federal Constitution. For the decisions of the Court which appellee relies upon do not justify the discriminatory application of a statute of limitations to foreign actions.1

But the interpretation which the Georgia courts have given § 3—701 convinces us that appellant has misconstrued it. The statute bars suits on foreign judgments only if the plaintiff cannot revive his judgment in the State where it was originally obtained. For the relevant date in applying § 3—701 is not the date of the original judgment, but rather it is the date of the latest revival of the judgment. Fagan v. Bently, 32 Ga. 534 (1861); Baty v. Holston, 108 Ga.App. 359, 133 S.E.2d 107 (1963). In the case at bar, for example, all appellant need do is return to Florida and revive his judgment.2 He can then come back to Georgia within five years and file suit free of the limitations of § 3—701.

It can be seen, therefore, that the Georgia statute has not discriminated against the judgment from Florida. Instead, it has focused on the law of that State. If Florida had a statute of limitations of five years or less on its own judgments, the appellant would not be able to recover here.3 But this disability would flow from the conclusion of the Florida Legislature that suits on Florida judgments should be barred after that period.4 Georgia's construction of § 3—701 would merely honor and give effect to that conclusion. Thus, full faith and credit is insured, rather than denied, the law of the judgment State. Similarly, there is no denial of equal protection in a scheme that relies upon the judgment State's view of the validity of his own judgments. Such a scheme hardly reflects invidious discrimination.


Mr. Justice DOUGLAS dissents.

1 The case most directly in point, M'Elmoyle for Use of Bailey v. Cohen, 13 Pet. 312, 10 L.Ed. 177, upheld the Georgia statute with which we deal today. But the parties in that case did not argue the statute's shorter limitation for foreign judgments as the ground of its invalidity. Instead, the issue presented to this Court concerned the power of the States to impose any statute of limitations upon foreign judgments. See argument for plaintiff, 13 Pet., at 313—320, 10 L.Ed. 177. The language of Mr. Justice Wayne's opinion'may not the law of a state fix different times for barring the remedy in a suit upon a judgment of another state, and for those of its own tribunals,' 13 Pet., at 328, 10 L.Ed. 177 must be read against this argument. And, of course, that opinion cannot stand against an equal-protection claim, since it was written nearly 30 years before the Fourteenth Amendment was adopted.

Neither of the cases cited by the Georgia Supreme Court dictates the result of this case. The first, Metcalf v. City of Watertown, 153 U.S. 671, 14 L.Ed. 947, 38 L.Ed. 861, involved a Wisconsin statute which provided a shorter limitation for foreign, as opposed to domestic, judgments. But the holding of the case was merely that this statute should be construed as placing the same...

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  • Ga. Dept. of Human Resources v. Deason
    • United States
    • Georgia Court of Appeals
    • July 7, 1999
    ...In the case at bar, for example, all appellant need do is return to Florida and revive [the] judgment. Watkins v. Conway, 385 U.S. 188, 189-190, 87 S.Ct. 357, 17 L.Ed.2d 286 (1966). Thus, Georgia recognizes dormancy provisions of the rendition state. However, since this is an URESA action o......
  • Shewbrooks v. A.C. and S., Inc., 56014
    • United States
    • Mississippi Supreme Court
    • May 11, 1988
    ...Mississippi cases, the rule is respected and adhered to in decisions of the United States Supreme Court. See Watkins v. Conway, 385 U.S. 188, 87 S.Ct. 357, 17 L.Ed.2d 286 (1966); Wells v. Simonds Abrasive Co., supra; Davis v. Mills, 194 U.S. 451, 24 S.Ct. 692, 48 L.Ed. 1067 53 C.J.S. Limita......
  • Adar v. Smith
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • April 12, 2011
    ...records. Louisiana has every right to channel and direct the rights created by foreign judgments. See, e.g., Watkins v. Conway, 385 U.S. 188, 87 S.Ct. 357, 17 L.Ed.2d 286 (1966) (holding that Georgia's five-year statute of limitations for suits on out-of-state judgments does not deny full f......
  • Fid. Nat'l Fin., Inc. v. Friedman
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Arizona
    • March 2, 2012
    ...faith and credit in the foreign state in which a plaintiff seeks enforcement.” Id. at *4 (citing, inter alia, Watkins v. Conway, 385 U.S. 188, 87 S.Ct. 357, 17 L.Ed.2d 286 (1966)). The Irby court then summarized just two cases—the Supreme Court's decision in Watkins, and Yorkshire West Capi......
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3 books & journal articles
  • The life of a money judgment in Florida is limited - for only some purposes.
    • United States
    • Florida Bar Journal Vol. 79 No. 7, July 2005
    • July 1, 2005
    ...judgment-creditor filed on the last day of the 20th year. (22) A procedure known as "domesticating" the judgment. See Watkins v. Conway, 385 U.S. 188, 190 n.2 (1966). (23) See Burshan v. Nat'l. Union Fire Ins. Co., 805 So. 2d 835,841 (Fla. 4th D.C.A. 2001), in which it was said that "[t]he ......
  • Elizabeth Redpath, Between Judgment and Law: Full Faith and Credit, Public Policy, and State Records
    • United States
    • Emory University School of Law Emory Law Journal No. 62-3, 2013
    • Invalid date
    ...522 U.S. at 235 (“Enforcement measures do not travel with the sister state judgment as preclusive effects do . . . .”); Watkins v. Conway, 385 U.S. 188, 190–91 (1966) (per curiam) (holding that Georgia’s five-year statute of limitations for suits on out-of-state judgments does not deny full......
  • The Florida Enforcement of Foreign Judgments Act: What time limit applies?
    • United States
    • Florida Bar Journal Vol. 74 No. 9, October 2000
    • October 1, 2000
    ...the application of the limitation period must be "even-handed" and not discriminatory to foreign judgments.[54] In Watkins v. Conway, 385 U.S. 188 (1966), a Florida judgment creditor appealed from the entry of summary judgment in favor of the defendant on the ground that his Georgia suit on......

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