Vanderbilt Law Review

First Page



The doctrine of sovereign immunity' prohibits the courts from assuming jurisdiction of a foreign sovereign without that sovereign's voluntary acquiescence, and the act of state doctrine prohibits the courts from assuming jurisdiction to judge the acts of a foreign sovereign performed within the geographical borders of its own country. In the United States, a judicial determination of self-restraint under either of these two doctrines effectively operates to bar further litigation on complaints brought against foreign governments or their instrumentalities and on complaints brought against private individuals, but based on the acts of their sovereigns. Despite the common policy foundations of each doctrine, two recent decisions of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, Isbrandtsen Tankers, Inc. v. President of India and Banco Nacional de Cuba v. First National City Bank indicate fundamental inconsistencies, first in the kind of presumption created by the executive's failure to submit a suggestion of restraint, and, secondly, in the degree of conclusiveness afforded State Department recommendations when they are submitted.