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.

A Primer on Foreign Sovereign Immunity

The immunity of states from the jurisdiction of foreign domestic courts is a long-standing and mostly uncontroversial principle of customary international law. The International Court of Justice has described foreign sovereign immunity as a procedural doctrine of international law, one that “derives from the principle of sovereign equality of the States.” As a practical matter,…

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Ninth Circuit Denies Rehearing En Banc in Cassirer

The legal saga surrounding the Cassirer family’s attempt to reclaim a Camille Pissarro painting seized by the Nazis has taken another step. Litigation in Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation has bounced among the Central District of California, the Ninth Circuit, the California Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court of the United States. (For more coverage…

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Supreme Court Grants Cert in Holocaust Expropriation Case

The Supreme Court granted cert this morning in Republic of Hungary v. Simon to consider further questions under the expropriation exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. In Republic of Germany v. Philipp(2021), the Supreme  Court held that the expropriation exception does not apply to a government’s taking of the property of its own nationals….

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Supreme Court Denies Cert in Fighter Jets Case

This morning, the U.S. Supreme Court denied review in Blenheim Capital Holdings Ltd. v. Lockheed Martin Corp., a case asking whether the purchase of fighter jets and other military equipment is a commercial activity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. Despite a circuit split on the question, the Solicitor General recommended that the Supreme Court…

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