Hitchcock & Fitch v. Aicken, 1803

1 Caines 460 (N.Y. 1803)

Recognition in New York of Court Judgment in a Sister State

In The Founders’ Constitution, an anthology of writings (letters, records of debates and early cases) relating to the Federal Constitution, the opinions written by Justices Thompson and Kent in Hitchcock & Fitch v. Aicken are included as Document 8 of Article 4, Section 1 (Full Faith and Credit).

On November 10, 1795, Hitchcock and Fitch, both residents of Vermont, bought a horse from Aicken, a New York resident. Aicken claimed the horse was “sound,” and Hitchock and Fitch paid him $750 for it. When the horse proved to be unsound, the plaintiffs sought to recover their money in the Vermont Supreme Court. The court’s verdict was in favor of the plaintiffs, and judgment was entered in the case.

Hitchcock and Fitch then brought an action in debt in the New York Supreme Court of Judicature. The issue before the Court was the level of recognition that should be given to the judgment of the Vermont Supreme Court. Two Justices, Smith Thompson and Brockholst Livingston, wrote opinions recognizing that the Vermont judgment was entitled to full faith and credit, but the majority, Chief Justice Morgan Lewis and Justices Jacob Radcliff and James Kent wrote opinions holding that a judgment obtained in a sister State is liable to be challenged in a suit brought in the New York courts, notwithstanding there may have been a full and fair trial in the sister State.

This issue came before the New York Supreme Court again in 1811, in the case of Taylor v. Briden, where Chief Justice Kent’s opinion focused on “the comity which we justly owe to the courts of other States.”

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