Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



The act of state doctrine poses a serious obstacle for plaintiffs seeking redress in United States courts for wrongful public acts by a recognized foreign sovereign within its own territory. Depending on the circumstances, however, various exceptions to the Doctrine may be invoked. This article is intended to be a brief introduction to the Doctrine and its exceptions and a survey of recent cases in which the Doctrine was construed by United States courts. The present inquiry into the nature and scope of the doctrine begins with the seminal case, "Underhill v. Hernandez"...

Almost all of the early case law around which the doctrine developed involved situations in which plaintiff was asserting the wrongful taking of property by revolutionary governments or military officials in the midst of political turmoil. The net effect of these decisions was to establish a rule that expropriation, nationalization, or confiscation of property by a foreign government (either before or after the taking) would be recognized by United States courts. The modern restatement of this rule and the current foundation for development of most act of state doctrine case law is found in Banco Nacional de Cuba v. Sabbatino.