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Conflicting Approaches to the U.S. Common Law of Foreign Official Immunity
American Journal of International Law  (IF3.091),  Pub Date : 2021-01-15, DOI: 10.1017/ajil.2020.90
Curtis A. Bradley

For more than a decade, U.S. courts have struggled to develop a common law immunity regime to govern suits brought against foreign government officials, and they are now divided on a number of issues, including the extent to which they should defer to the executive branch and whether to recognize a jus cogens exception. This Editorial Comment considers a more conceptual division in the courts, between an “effect-of-judgment” approach that would confer immunity only when the judgment that the plaintiff is seeking would be directly enforceable against the foreign state, and a broader “nature-of-act” approach that would confer immunity whenever the plaintiff's case is challenging conduct carried out on behalf of the state. The Comment argues in favor of the nature-of-act approach and explains why analogies in this context to domestic civil rights litigation are misplaced.