The legal environment for Compacts involves an amalgamation of Compact texts and case law from federal and state courts throughout the country. Because there are relatively few court decisions establishing legal principles in any particular court or for any particular Compact, courts frequently consider other federal and state court decisions for their interpretation and application of a Compact. Courts also use the texts of other Compacts and corresponding case law for generally applicable principles of Compact law. Given complexity of the legal underpinnings and the pervasive and appropriate use of Compacts today, it is important for judges and court personnel to understand the law of interstate Compacts.
As noted in the introduction and explained in this chapter, interstate Compacts are not mere agreements between the states subject to parochial interpretations or selective application. On their face, they are statutory contracts that bind member states including respective agencies, officials, and citizens to an agreed set of principles and understandings. They are not a series of recommended procedures or easily disregarded discretionary proposals of convenience. Moreover, they are not uniform, model, or suggested state laws, nor are they administrative agreements between agencies or executive officials. Understanding the unique significance of interstate Compacts in the American legal system is an important predicate to correct application of Compact terms and conditions that may prevent legal jeopardy vis-à-vis fulfilling its contractual obligations.