The Secretary of State to the Consul General at Jerusalem ( Morris )
Sir: Reference is made to your letter of March 14, 1936,1 addressed to Mr. Wallace Murray, the Chief of the Division of Near Eastern Affairs, regarding the question of the exercise by American consular officers in Palestine of judicial functions.
It appears that the judicial functions authorized by the regulations made under Article 67 of the Palestine Order in Council, 1922,2 concerning the powers of consuls in relation to personal status of nationals of their State, are limited to non-contentious cases of personal status and that such limited power is rendered potentially nugatory by the extensive authority reserved to the Palestine Courts to intervene in Consular Court cases. Accordingly the Department is of the opinion that American consular officers in Palestine should refrain from exercising any of the judicial functions authorized by the abovementioned regulations.
Furthermore, it is the opinion of the Department that American consular officers in Palestine should limit their administrative functions in connection with the estates of Americans dying in Palestine to those authorized in paragraph 3 of the Palestine regulations in question, which reads as follows:
“If a national of a foreign State dies in Palestine or elsewhere leaving property in Palestine or if there is no known heir, executor, or other person present in Palestine entitled and willing to administer the estate, or if the heirs or legatees or some of them are minors or subject to incapacity and are not duly represented, the Consul may either personally or by his nominee, take possession of the papers and movable effects of the deceased or cause his seals to be placed thereon; make an inventory of the estate, recover the debts, sell the movable property, pay the funeral expenses, arrears of wages and other urgent debts, grant provisional allowances for the support of the deceased’s [Page 434] dependents; and in general take measures of a provisional, conservatory or urgent character in regard to the estate.
“If the national of one of the aforesaid States having property in Palestine is absent and has no representative in Palestine, the Consul may take similar measures to those specified above in regard to his property.”
Such administrative functions should be exercised only in non-contentious cases, all other cases being referred to the local authorities for appropriate action.
Very truly yours,