Watkins v. Conway

LOCATION: Criminal District Court #4

DECIDED BY: Warren Court (1965-1967)

CITATION: 385 US 188 (1966)
ARGUED: Nov 09, 1966
DECIDED: Dec 05, 1966

Facts of the case


Media for Watkins v. Conway

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - November 09, 1966 in Watkins v. Conway

Earl Warren:

No. 65, Robert D. Watkins, appellant versus J.F. Conway.

Mr. Vance?

William G. Vance:

Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the Court.

The central issue to be resolved in this case is the constitutionality of Georgia Code Section 3-701.

This statute provides for the enforcement of statute of limitations against foreign judgments, that is out-of-state judgments, for five years.

In other words, after five years you no longer have a right to enforce an out-of-state judgment in the State of Georgia.

At the same time, under Georgia law, a domestic judgment is enforceable and remains enforceable for a period of ten years.

We submit this discrimination in favor of domestic judgments and against out-of-state judgments is unconstitutional and violates both the Full Faith and Credit Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution.

Now, we do not argue the Georgia cannot enact any statute of limitations against the enforcement of foreign judgments.

We are only arguing that it cannot enact a statute of limitations which discriminates in favor of its own judgments and against out-of-state judgments.

This is our sole argument.

Now, with respect to the Full Faith and Credit Clause, this Court has said in Milwaukee --

Your question with respect to the Georgia judgment [Inaudible].

William G. Vance:

Yes, sir.


William G. Vance:

No sir the way it works is for seven years, the holder of a Georgia judgment can just sit on his hands and he didn't levy on that time.

If he does levy, then the judgment is renewed for another seven-year period, but assuming that he does not do anything with this judgment for seven years then he has an additional three-year period after that within which to bring a suit on that judgment to revive it.

So, he loses all his rights to that judgment after 10 years.

He still has an enforceable right for a period of 10 years although he loses his right to levy after seven.

In case of the foreign judgment [Inaudible]

William G. Vance:

He has no right to levy.


William G. Vance:

He has to sue, but the critical question is how long can the holder of a judgment sit on his hands before he loses his rights.

That's a critical question.

How long is the statute on the books?

William G. Vance:

It's been on the book since prior to 1836, Your Honor, and I'm not sure when it was enacted, but it's been on the books for very long time.

With respect to the Full Faith and Credit Clauses, Court has said in Milwaukee County case, the very purpose of the Full Faith and Credit Clause was to alter the status of the several states as independent foreign sovereignties, each predate no obligations in credit – created under the laws by the judicial proceedings of the others and to make them integral parts of a single nation through out which a remedy upon a just obligation may be demanded as right respective of the state of origin.

We submit that if the statute is in question is allowed to be enforced in favor of domestic judgments then no longer do we have a central nation but we have a nation of individual sovereignties with respect to this Full Faith and Credit Clause.

Abe Fortas:

This one is a procedure in Georgia on foreign judgments?

William G. Vance:

You have to bring suit on the foreign judgment to -- in effect turn it into a Georgia judgment.