Foreign Sovereign Immunity Case: The Schooner Exchange v. McFaddon (1812) 11 U.S. (7 Cranch) 116, 3 L.Ed.

287 Facts: The vessel was owned by an U.S. citizen, and on a voyage, the vessel was violently and forcibly seized by Napoleon of France. The vessel sailed into an American port and the citizens filed a libel action to reclaim it. The district court denied the libel for lack of jurisdiction. The appellate court reversed. Issue: Whether an American citizen can assert, in an American court, a title to an armed national vessel, found within the waters of the United States. -No. Holding/Reasoning: The court found that the vessel was a public armed vessel commissioned by, and in the service of the emperor of France. The court found that the United States was at peace with France and permitted the vessel to enter the ports as a friendly power. The court held that when the vessel entered American territory, it did so under the implied promise that the vessel was exempt from United States jurisdiction and enjoyed sovereign immunity. Notes · Court holds that claim should be dismissed. Why? ○ Foreign Sovereign Immunity Doctrine raised. What does it say, why implicated in this case? o France, a foreign sovereign, owned the boat. o Court notes that Emperor took custody of the vessel, albeit improperly, they still took custody of it ○ Napoleon using it as an official armed ship for military purposes o Not like used for commercial purposes etc. Instead for a public purpose. ○ Court holds that in cases like this, there is immunity, and jurisdiction is waived. · Why have foreign sovereign immunity? ○ Policy rationale - an int'l principle of this, that has been long respected by countries of the world (principle of int'l law) ○ b/c we recognize each other's sovereignty there is implied consent to the principle of foreign sovereign immunity · Court will waive the territorial jurisdiction b/c of this principle. · Why do we want this doctrine, from a policy perspective? ○ Reciprocity ○ If it becomes absolute, there may be injustice o Later court & congress want states to be more accountable for their actions □ Especially b/c of globalization ○ Balance btwn state maintaining a sovereignty and being accountable to the int'l community · This is during War of 1812. U.S. at war with UK, France is our ally. Perhaps court didn’t want to upset diplomatic affairs. · Schooner established the basic doctrine that was absolute in the beginning, but has been limited since then