Washington Law Review


Jack E. Sands


International comity demands that one sovereign ordinarily recognize the legitimacy of the acts of another, questioning their validity under neither internal nor international law. A challenge to the legality of the acts of another nation-state may entail serious international repercussions; such challenges thus have been considered grave matters of national diplomatic policy within the exclusive competency of the political branches of government. Judicial recognition of this fact is reflected in the act of state doctrine—the refusal of the courts of one nation-state to investigate the legality of official governmental acts performed in another. This doctrine, accepted in varying degrees by many nations, had its origin in the United States in Underhill v. Hernandez. Underhill held that the doctrine barred an action in American courts against the Venezuelan government for wrongful imprisonment, but the doctrine has been. most commonly utilized in the area of foreign expropriations. In that context; the United States Supreme Court reexamined the validity and scope of the doctrine in First National City Bank v. Banco Nacional de Cuba.

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