International comity refers to deference to other countries that is not required by international law. The principle of international comity animates many different doctrines, which can be grouped into three categories: those that defer to foreign governments as litigants (“sovereign party comity”), those that defer to foreign lawmakers (“prescriptive comity”), and those that defer to foreign courts (“adjudicative comity”). Within each of these categories, “positive” comity doctrines use comity as a principle of recognition (such as the recognition of foreign judgments or the application of foreign law), while negative comity doctrines use comity as a principle of restraint (such as foreign sovereign immunity or the act of state doctrine).
When courts refer to the “doctrine of comity” or “comity abstention,” they often mean deference to parallel litigation in foreign courts or foreign bankruptcy proceedings. The Ninth and Eleventh Circuits, however, have invoked “international comity abstention” more broadly to dismiss cases based on foreign relations concerns.
The Supreme Court in Hilton v. Guyot (1895) famously defined international comity as “the recognition which one nation allows within its territory to the legislative, executive or judicial acts of another nation.” That definition is incomplete, however, as comity encompasses much more than the recognition of foreign acts. The Restatement (Fourth) of Foreign Relations Law…Continue Reading
The Eighth Circuit will soon hear an interlocutory appeal to consider permitting abstention based on foreign relations concerns. In Reid v. Doe Run Resources Corp. (as the case is captioned on appeal), Peruvian citizens allege they were seriously harmed as children by toxic substances emitted by a metallurgical refining complex in Peru and that this…Continue Reading
In a fascinating decision, the District Court for the District of Nevada (Judge Richard Boulware) recently allowed civil RICO claims to proceed against a Nevada resident based on bribery in Ethiopia, while dismissing claims against Ethiopian government entities under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). Fremichael Ghebreyesus v. Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia not only…Continue Reading
In a prior post, I surveyed the facts, procedural history, and potential significance of Great Lakes Insurance SE v. Raiders Retreat Realty Co., LLC, an upcoming Supreme Court case about the enforceability of choice-of-law clauses in maritime insurance contracts. In this post, I offer some thoughts on the brief filed by the petitioner, Great Lakes Insurance…Continue Reading