17 Colum. J. Transnat'l L. 33 (1978)
The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976

handle is hein.journals/cjtl17 and id is 37 raw text is: The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act
of 1976
ROBERT B. VON MEHREN*
I. INTRODUCTION
On October 22, 1976, President Ford signed H.R. 11315, the
Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 [the Immunities Act].'
In his statement on signing H.R. 11315 into law, the President said:
This statute will also make it easier for our citizens
and foreign governments to turn to the courts to resolve
ordinary legal disputes. In this respect, the Foreign Sover-
eign Immunities Act carries forward a modern and en-
lightened trend in international law. And it makes this
development in the law available to all American citi-
zens.2
The modern and enlightened trend to which the President
referred is the restrictive doctrine of foreign sovereign immunity,
codified in the Immunities Act. The basic premise of this doctrine
is that in commercial matters-what the President termed
ordinary legal disputes-a foreign sovereign should not have
available the defense of sovereign immunity. In essence, that doc-
trine restricts the immunity of a foreign state to suits involving a
foreign state's public acts (acta jure imperii) and does not extend
* Member of the New York Bar. A.B., Yale University, 1943; LL.B., Harvard University,
1946. The author wishes to express his appreciation to his colleague, P. Nicholas Kourides,
for his assistance in the preparation of this Article.
The author delivered a paper entitled The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of
1976 at the June 1977 Symposium on Private Investments Abroad of The Southwestern
Legal Foundation. That paper has been published in the proceedings of the Symposium,
copyright by Matthew Bender & Company Incorporated 1977. This Article is based upon the
paper prepared for delivery at the Symposium, which has been revised and updated with
permission for publication as an Article, copyright by the Colum. J. Transnat'l L. Assoc.,
Inc.
1. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976, Pub. L. No. 94-583, -   Stat. -
(codified at 28 U.S.C.  1330, 1602-11 (1976), and amending 28 U.S.C.  1391, 1441)
[hereinafter the Immunities Act]. Its date of enactment was October 21, 1976 and it became
effective ninety days after the date of its enactment. Efforts to secure legislation dealing with
foreign sovereign immunity go back to 1961. Shortly after the decision in Rich v. Naviera
Vacuba, S.A., 295 F.2d 24 (4th Cir. 1961), Senator Ervin introduced legislation designed to
provide means of redress for the unlawful seizure of American property by foreign govern-
ments. 108 CONG. REc. 22460 (1962). The Ervin bill would have removed the defense of
sovereign immunity in such cases.
2. 12 WEEKLY COMP. oF PRES. Doc. 1554 (1976).

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