811.043/18

The Secretary of State to the Czechoslovak Minister (Veverka)

The Secretary of State presents his compliments to the Minister of Czechoslovakia and, referring to the Legation’s note of November 13, 1930, requesting on behalf of the Ministry of Justice at Prague a statement with regard to the immunity from suits of foreign States in the United States, has to advise the Minister as follows:

It is well settled that foreign States are held immune from suit in Federal and State courts in the United States. There is no provision in the Constitution of the United States or any Federal statute which forbids the institution of suits against foreign States in courts of the United States. The question has been determined by courts of the United States, which simply refuse to take jurisdiction, usually basing such refusal on well recognized principles of international law. Courts in the United States have also held that property belonging to foreign states is immune from a process in rem.

As of possible interest, the Minister’s attention is called to the following cases in which the Supreme Court of the United States had occasion to pass on the foregoing questions: The Siren, 7 Wall. 152; Stanley versus Schwalby, 147 U. S. 508; The Exchange, 7 Cranch 116; Tucker versus Alexandroff, 183 U. S. 424.

In conclusion it may be stated that there are no provisions of the Constitution of the United States or any Federal statute having a direct bearing on the question of the authority of representatives abroad of the United States to represent the United States before foreign courts. The question would seem to be one for determination by the Executive officers of the United States and it is believed that should the occasion arise the Department of State would be prepared [Page 823]to instruct its representatives abroad to represent the United States before foreign courts in legal proceedings instituted by the United States and would permit such representatives in behalf of the United States to “receive for it and in its behalf any judicial records and documents of foreign courts.”