Cornell International Law Journal




This study seeks to clarify the importance, current and potential, of the use of comity by international courts and tribunals. Our findings support the idea that comity might be an emerging principle of procedural law, though agreement on its exact meaning— or unequivocal choices among its many connotations— still tends to be uncommon. We submit that, as long as other solutions are not in place, the principle can be successfully employed to assist international courts and tribunals in mediating jurisdictional conflicts between themselves by balancing coordination efforts and the demands of justice in the individual cases.

Comity may serve as a meta-principle of coordination between international judicial bodies, to be employed in the pursuit of the common interest to an efficient and fair system of international dispute settlement. There are strong reasons militating in favour of this proposition: international tribunals, by and large, possess the powers necessary to exercise it; international judges and arbitrators know how to use it; and its long history of applications at the domestic level suggests that it can be employed successfully for a variety of purposes.

We also submit the hunch that comity may most likely be employed as a central principle for further aspects of the coordination of international adjudication, for instance informing the sound use of analogical reasoning and precedent-borrowing process. Further study will be required to assess the potential of comity in this context. We have, so far, restricted ourselves to a simpler and more crucial task, seeking to resituate the principle of comity as one on which to rely for the resolution of different types of conflicts between international jurisdictions, and to question the traditional assumption that it is just an unhelpful complication: its history and rediscovery suggest otherwise.