Republic of Hungary v. Simon

Summarized by:

  • Court: U.S. Supreme Court Certiorari Granted
  • Area(s) of Law: Sovereign Immunity
  • Date Filed: July 2, 2020
  • Case #: 18-1447
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: 911 F.3d 1172 (D.C. Cir. 2018).
  • Full Text Opinion

Petition granted limited to the following question: May the district court abstain from exercising jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act for reasons of international comity, where former Hungarian nationals have sued the nation of Hungary to recover the value of property lost in Hungary during World War II, and where the plaintiffs made no attempt to exhaust local Hungarian remedies?

Respondents, former Hungarian nationals, sued Hungary to recuperate the value of property lost there during World War II. Respondents invoked the expropriation exemption of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and filed in federal court rater than filing in Hungary. The district court dismissed the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, because it was constrained by FSIA to recognize Hungary’s sovereign immunity and that an extrajudicial mechanism to resolve Respondent’s claims existed. The circuit court reversed, and o the district court dismissed again, holding that principles of international comity necessitated Respondents first attempt to litigate their claims in Hungary. The circuit court again reversed and pointed to its decision in Philipp v. Federal Republic of Germany, 894 F.3d 406 (D.C. Cir. 2018), which followed the district court’s ruling and “squarely rejected the asserted comity-based ground for declining statutorily assigned jurisdiction.” Petitioners argue that comity-based abstention is not sovereign jurisdictional immunity but is a  sensible reason for courts to decline to exercise jurisdiction in appropriate cases. Petitioners argue that the D.C. Circuit is the only court that treats prudential abstention as jurisdictional immunity and that the permanent unavailability of comity-based dismissal makes the circuit “the preferred forum for cases presenting the most significant comity concerns.” Petitioners argue that the FSIA “does not provide that foreign states have no comity interests apart from sovereign immunity” nor does the FSIA “prohibit courts from acting to protect those comity interests in appropriate cases.”

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