(The Return of) Ignatz, by Sam Heldman

Monday, January 20, 2003

Supreme Court

The first case on Wednesday, Dole v. Patrickson, is about two questions under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The legal issues are not of enormous importance, unless your practice happens to include suing (or you happen to be harmed by) corporate entities that are majority-owned by foreign governments. Some farm workers in Latin American countries were injured by horrible pesticides used by fruit companies, and so sued those companies (and some chemical companies that manufactured the stuff). The defendants, in turn, filed "third party complaints" trying to shift some or all of the liability to some companies that had, until recently, been subsidiaries of a company that was majority-owned by the State of Israel. So now the question is whether the third-party defendants were entitled to remove the case to federal court under the FSIA.

Before getting to the substance, here's something somewhat interesting. You remember how, a couple of weeks ago, I was annoyed at Ninth Circuit Judge Kozinski for his twice-demonstrated proclivity for inserting snotty little Clinton and Gore jokes into his opinions? Well, lo and behold, there's another one in his opinion (pdf) for the Ninth Circuit in this case! (See fn 10 and text accompanying). Maybe there are more. Somebody with more time than I could do a study to see the full extent of Judge Kozinski's Leno-esque cavalcade of lame anti-Clinton/Gore jokes.

But back to the substance. The questions before the Supreme Court are (a) whether the FSIA provides for federal jurisdiction when the defendant isn't itself a corporation majority-owned by a foreign state, but is a separately-incorporated subsidiary of such an entity; and (b) whether the FSIA provides for federal jurisdiction even if the foreign state no longer owns the shares at the time the suit is filed. Here is an article by a law professor that explains the issues much better than I ever could. (One of the bright young whippersnappers on the Goldstein Howe blog-team/lawfirm found it and linked to it, to give credit where it's due. I need some bright young whippersnappers writing this stuff for me.) Here is the government's brief, as amicus, arguing for affirmance.

Looks to me like the government is right, and that's all the time I have to give to this case, so I say "AFFIRM."

posted by sam 9:37 AM 0 comments


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