Foreign Sovereign Immunity
Customary international law provides immunity to states from the jurisdiction of foreign national courts. The immunity extends to state agencies and to state-owned property, protecting them from adjudicatory jurisdiction and from enforcement measures. Foreign sovereign immunity has important exceptions, including for waiver, for some conduct or property related to commercial activity, and for some torts committed on the territory of the forum state. In the United States, all aspects of foreign sovereign immunity for cases in state or federal court are governed by a federal statute, the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
[Editors: This post is one in a series of Primers on topics in transnational litigation. Primers on each of the topics listed in the Topics menu are planned, and some already appear on the relevant topic pages.] The procedural and substantive rules that U.S. courts apply in transnational litigation come from many sources, including the…Continue Reading
In 1978, the International Association of Machinists (IAM), a labor union, sued OPEC and its member countries for violating U.S. antitrust law by operating a cartel. The district court held that OPEC countries were immune from suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). On appeal the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal on…Continue Reading
Seventy years ago this week, Department of State Legal Adviser Jack Tate wrote to Attorney General Philip Perlman to announce a sea change in State’s litigation practice vis-à-vis foreign sovereign immunity. The so-called “Tate Letter” informed the Department of Justice that State would shift from the “classical” approach to sovereign immunity to what’s known as…Continue Reading