The Washington Foreign Law Society Presents A Discussion of Foreign State Immunity in U.S. Courts


The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 governs all civil actions brought against foreign states, government agencies and state-owned enterprises in courts in the United States.  The FSIA has generated extensive litigation including numerous Supreme Court decisions.  On July 2, the Court agreed to hear two more cases – involving expropriation claims brought by Holocaust victims against Hungary and Germany, respectively.  At the same time, they rejected a petition to resolve a circuit split regarding the common law immunities of foreign government officials.

The Panel will explore (1) important questions presented by recent cases, including litigation of genocide claims in U.S. courts, judicial discretion to dismiss claims on grounds of international comity and the application of the FSIA to criminal matters; (2) broader problems of judicial management arising from the complex structure of the Act, its gaps and ambiguities – some intended, some not; and (3) the common law immunity of foreign government officials.

Moderator:  Mary Catherine Malin, Assistant Legal Adviser, Diplomatic Law and Litigation, Department of State.


  • Mark B. Feldman, Adjunct Professor Georgetown Law, Deputy/Acting Legal Adviser, Department of State (1974-81), coordinated drafting FSIA.
  • The Honorable Royce Lamberth, senior Judge, USDC District of Columbia, former Chief Judge.
  • John Bellinger III, partner Arnold & Porter, former Legal Adviser, Department of State, former Legal Adviser National Security Council.

Date and Location

Thursday, September 17, 2020 - 5:30pm to 7:00pm