Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2006


Britain's Lord Denning once said that “as a moth is drawn to the light, so is a litigant drawn to the United States.” Certainly, as a pro-arbitration state and a signatory to various international conventions concerning the enforcement of foreign arbitral awards, the United States seems a natural place to bring an action to enforce an arbitral award against a foreign state or state agency. However, suing a sovereign has not traditionally been a simple task in the United States or elsewhere. Most nations grant foreign states the presumption of immunity, thus denying that their domestic courts have jurisdiction to hear a dispute involving a foreign sovereign unless an exception to immunity exists. For years, U.S. courts took a highly deferential, “hands-off” approach to litigation involving a foreign sovereign. However, recent case law out of the D.C. Circuit has radically diminished the jurisdictional elements that plaintiffs must establish before a U.S. court will assert its power to enforce an arbitral award against a foreign state or state agency. This article investigates this recent shift and describes what contacts, if any, a foreign state or state agency must have with the United States before a U.S. court will assert jurisdiction under sections 1605(a)(1) and 1605(a)(6) of the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”). This article will also discuss the likelihood and propriety of other circuits following the D.C. Circuit's lead.



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