Mid-session update: 42 bills in 20 states seek to ban court use of sharia/international law (with list and links)

March 15th, 2011 by Bill Raftery Leave a reply »

Welcome ABA Journal readers! This post has been updated, here.

We are about half way through the 2011 state legislative season and so far there have been 42 bills in 2011 to ban or otherwise restrict court references or use to sharia/international law.

Prior 2011 posts on the subject can be found here, here, and here.

Below is an update on the current (as of 3/14/11) status of such efforts. Hearings coming up this week include Alaska HB 88, Missouri HB 708, Missouri SB 308, and Nebraska LB 647.

Interestingly, some of the most recently filed bills (Iowa HB 489 filed March 2;  Maine HB 811 filed March 15; West Virginia HB 3220 filed February 21) now provide that foreign law cannot be the “primary factor which a court…shall consider”.

Bill Provisions Status
Alabama SB 61 (Constitutional Amendment) Defines foreign law as “any law, rule, or legal code, or system established, used, or applied in a jurisdiction outside of the states or territories of the United States, or which exist as a separate body of law, legal code, or system adopted or used anywhere by any people, group, or culture different from the Constitution and laws of the United States or the State of Alabama.” Provides “A court, arbitrator, administrative agency, or other adjudicative, arbitrative, or enforcement authority shall not apply or enforce a foreign law if doing so would violate any state law or a right guaranteed by the Constitution of this state or of the United States.” In Senate Committee on Judiciary.
Alabama SB 62 (Constitutional Amendment) Provides Alabama courts “when exercising their judicial authority, shall uphold and adhere to the law as provided in the United States Constitution, the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, the United States Code, federal regulations promulgated pursuant thereto, established common law, the Code of Alabama 1975, and rules promulgated thereto, and if necessary the law of another state of the United States, provided the law of the other state does not include Sharia, in making judicial decisions. The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia. The provisions of this subsection shall apply to all cases before the respective courts including, but not limited to, cases of first impression.” In Senate Committee on Judiciary.
Alaska HB 88 Prohibits a court, arbitrator, mediator, administrative agency, or enforcement authority from applying a foreign law if application of the foreign law would violate an individual’s right guaranteed by the Constitution of the State of Alaska or the United States Constitution. Hearing in House State Affairs Committee 3/17/11.
Arizona HB 2582 Enacts the “Arizona Foreign Decisions Act” Declares the acceptance of Arizona into the Union was a “compact”. Declares “Congress has no authority to preempt state regulation of state courts.” Prohibits courts from implementing, referring or incorporating or using “a tenet of any body of religious sectarian law” and specifically includes sharia law, canon law, halacha and karma, but exempts decisions based on Anglo-American legal tradition, laws or case law from Great Britain prior enactment of the statute, or the definition of marriage as between one man and one woman, “and the principles on which the United States was founded.” Prohibits use of any case law or statute from a non-U.S. jurisdiction or “foreign body”, including the United Nations. Decisions that make use of a body of religious sectarian law or foreign law declared void and usages declared to be grounds for impeachment. Declares these provisions apply to Federal courts sitting in diversity jurisdiction. Requires any court that construes this statute must do so in a way to confine the power of Congress and the federal judiciary. Approved by House Judiciary Committee 2/17/11. Held by House Rules Committee 3/7/11.
Arizona HCR 2033 (Constitutional Amendment) Provides state’s courts shall not consider, enforce or otherwise incorporate into any decision on the merits the legal precepts of other nations or cultures that run counter to the laws of this state unless expressly ratified by bicameralism and presentment in the state legislature or duly ratified as a treaty by the Senate of the United States. Provides state courts shall uphold and adhere to the law as provided in the United States Constitution, the Constitution of this state, The United States Code, federal regulations adopted pursuant to the United States code, established common law, the laws of this state and rules adopted pursuant to the laws of this state and, if necessary, the laws of another state of the United States provided the law of the other state does not incorporate directly or by reference international law or the precepts of nations or cultures. In House (no committee).
Arizona SCR 1010 (Constitutional Amendment) Requires courts, when making judicial decisions, to uphold and adhere to the laws of the U.S. Constitution, Arizona Constitution, U.S. Code, Federal regulations, established common law, Arizona laws and rules and if necessary, the laws of another state within the U.S. provided the laws in the other state do not include international law. Prohibits Arizona courts from considering international law or legal precepts of other nations or cultures when making judicial decisions. In Senate Committee on Judiciary.
Arkansas SJR 10 (Constitutional Amendment) (Placeholder bill) Declares “The purpose of this Senate Joint Resolution is to amend the Arkansas Constitution concerning the application of foreign laws, legal codes, or systems for the purpose of protecting rights and privileges granted under the United States Constitution and the Arkansas Constitution.” In Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs.
Arkansas SB 97 Prohibits any court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision shall violate the public policy of this state and be void and unenforceable if the court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its rulings or decisions in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any foreign law, legal code, or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the United States Constitution and the Arkansas Constitution In Senate Committee on Judiciary.
Florida HB 1273 Defines term “foreign law, legal code, or system”; specifies public policy of this state in applying choice of foreign law, legal code, or system. Declares that certain decisions rendered under such laws, codes, or systems are void. In House Judiciary Committee
Florida SB 1294 Specifies the public policy of this state in applying the choice of a foreign law, legal code, or system under certain circumstances. Declares that certain decisions rendered under such laws, codes, or systems are void. In Senate Judiciary Committee
Georgia HB 45 Provides “the term ‘foreign law’ means any law, rule, or legal code or system established and used or applied in a jurisdiction outside of the United States or its territories…A court, arbitrator, administrative agency, or other tribunal shall not enforce a foreign law if doing so would violate a right guaranteed by the Constitution of this state or of the United States.” In House Committee on Judiciary.
Georgia HB 242 Declares “’foreign law’ means any law, rule, or legal code or system established and used or applied in a jurisdiction outside of the United States or its territories…A court, administrative agency, or other tribunal shall not enforce a foreign law if doing so would violate a right guaranteed by the Constitution of this state or of the United States.” In House Committee on Judiciary Non-Civil.
Georgia SB 51 Provides that no court, arbitrator, administrative agency, or other tribunal shall enforce a foreign law if doing so would violate a right guaranteed by the Constitution of this state or of the United States In Senate Committee on the Judiciary.
Indiana HB 1078 Prohibits the enforcement of a foreign law (defined as a law established and used outside the jurisdiction of the United States) if the enforcement would violate a right granted by the Indiana or United States constitution. In House Committee on Judiciary.
Indiana SB 298 Prohibits the enforcement of a foreign law (defined as a law established and used outside the jurisdiction of the United States) if the enforcement would violate a right granted by the Indiana or United States constitution. In Senate Committee on Judiciary.
Indiana SB 520 Prohibits the enforcement of a foreign law (defined as a law established and used outside the jurisdiction of the United States) if the enforcement would violate a right granted by the Indiana or United States constitution. Approved by full Senate 2/17/11.
Indiana SJR 16 (Constitutional Amendment) Provides a court may not enforce a law, rule, or legal code or system established and either used or applied in a jurisdiction outside the states of the United States, the District of Columbia, or the territories of the United States if doing so would violate a right guaranteed by this constitution or the Constitution of the United States. In Senate Committee on Judiciary.
Iowa HB 489 Defines “foreign law, legal code, or system” as “any law, legal code, or system of a jurisdiction outside of any state or territory of the United States, including but not limited to international organizations and tribunals, and applied by that jurisdiction’s courts, administrative bodies, or other formal or informal tribunals.” Provides “It is the public policy of this state that the primary factor which a court, administrative agency, arbitrator, mediator, or other entity or person acting under the authority of state law shall consider in granting comity to a decision rendered under any foreign law, legal code, or system against a person in this state is whether the decision rendered violated any right of the person in this state guaranteed by the Constitution of the State of Iowa, the Constitution of the United States, or any statute enacted or decision issued under the constitution of the state of Iowa or the United States.” Approved by House Judiciary Committee 3/10/11.
Iowa HB 575 Enacts “Iowa Freedom and Sovereignty Act.” Defines “Foreign law” as “any law enacted by a jurisdiction 4 or a governmental or quasi-governmental body other than the federal government or a state of the United States. “Foreign law” includes a religious law, legal code, accord, or ruling promulgated or made by an international organization, tribunal, or formal or informal administrative body.” Provides “any foreign law or other law that is in conflict with the principles of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, or the Constitution of the State of Iowa shall not have force or effect in this state…It is the public policy of this state that the only factor that a court, administrative agency, arbitrator, mediator, or other person acting under authority of this state’s laws shall consider in granting comity to a decision rendered under a foreign law that affects a sovereign citizen of this state is whether the decision violates the sovereign citizen’s rights under the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of the State of Iowa.” In House State Government Committee.
Iowa HJR 14 (Constitutional Amendment) Provides the state courts “when exercising judicial power, shall uphold and adhere to the law as provided in the Constitution of the United States, the Constitution of the State of Iowa, the United States Code, federal regulations, established common law, the Iowa Code, the Iowa administrative code, and if necessary the law of another state of the United States provided the law of the other state does not include Sharia law. The courts shall not use the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia law. The provisions of this section shall apply to all cases before the respective courts including but not limited to cases of first impression.” In House Judiciary Committee.
Kansas HB 2087 Defines “foreign law,” “legal code” or “system” means any law, legal code or system of a jurisdiction outside of any state or territory of the United States, including, but not limited to, international organizations and tribunals and applied by that jurisdiction’s courts, administrative bodies or other formal or informal tribunals. Provides “Any court, arbitration, tribunal or administrative agency ruling or decision shall violate the public policy of this state and be void and unenforceable if the court, arbitration, tribunal or administrative agency bases its rulings or decisions in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any law, legal code or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights and privileges granted under the United States and Kansas constitutions.” Approved by House Committee on Judiciary 3/10/11.
Maine HB 811 Provides “”foreign law, legal code or system” means any law, legal code or legal system of a jurisdiction outside of any state or territory of the United States, including, but not limited to, international organizations and tribunals, that is applied by that jurisdiction’s courts, administrative bodies or other formal or informal tribunals…The primary factor that a court, administrative agency, arbitrator, mediator or other entity or person acting under the authority of state law must consider in granting comity to a decision rendered under a foreign law, legal code or legal system against a natural person in this State is whether the decision rendered either violated or would violate any right of the natural person in this State guaranteed by the Constitution of Maine or the United States Constitution or any statute or decision under those constitutions.” In Joint Committee on Judiciary
Mississippi HB 301 Prohibits courts from enforcing a foreign law if doing so would violate a right guaranteed by the Constitution of this state or of the United States. Died in House Judiciary A Committee.
Mississippi HB 525 Provides ““Foreign law” means any law, rule, or legal code or system established and used or applied in a jurisdiction outside of the states or territories of the United States…A court, arbitrator, administrative agency, or other adjudicative, mediation, or enforcement authority shall not enforce a foreign law if doing so would violate a right guaranteed by the Constitution of this state or of the United States.” Died in House Judiciary A Committee.
Missouri HB 708 Provides “foreign law, legal code, or system” means any law, legal code, or system of a jurisdiction outside of any state or territory of the United States, including but not limited to international organizations and tribunals, and applied by that jurisdiction’s courts, administrative bodies, or other formal or informal tribunals…Any court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision violates the public policy of this state and shall be void and unenforceable if such court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its rulings or decisions in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any law, legal code, or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the constitutions of this state and the United States.” Hearing in House Judiciary Committee 3/16/11.
Missouri HB 768 Defines “foreign law” as “any law, rule, or legal code or system established and used or applied in a jurisdiction outside of the states or territories of the United States.” Provides “A court, arbitrator, administrative agency, or other adjudicative, mediation, or enforcement authority shall not enforce a foreign law if doing so would violate a right guaranteed by the constitution of this state or of the United States.” In House (no committee).
Missouri HJR 31 (Constitutional Amendment) Provides state courts “when exercising their judicial authority, shall uphold and adhere to the law as provided in the United States Constitution, the Constitution of Missouri, the United States Code, federal regulations promulgated pursuant thereto, and if necessary the law of another state of the United States, provided the law of the other state does not include Sharia law, in making judicial decisions. The courts shall not look to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures. Specifically, the courts shall not consider international law or Sharia law. The provisions of this section shall apply to all cases before the respective courts, including but not limited to cases of first impression.” In House Judiciary Committee.
Missouri SB 308 Defines ““foreign law, legal code, or system” means any law, legal code, or system of a jurisdiction outside of any state or territory of the United States, including but not limited to, international organizations and tribunals, and applied by that jurisdiction’s courts, administrative bodies, or other formal or informal tribunals…Any court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision shall violate the public policy of this state and be void and unenforceable if the court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its rulings or decisions in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any foreign law, legal code, or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the United States and Missouri constitutions.” Hearing in Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee 3/17/11.
Nebraska LB 647 Declares a court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision shall violate the public policy of this state and be void and unenforceable if the court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its rulings on any foreign law, legal code, or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decisions the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the United States Constitution and the Constitution of Nebraska. Hearing in Senate Judiciary Committee 3/17/11.
New Mexico SJR 18 (Constitutional Amendment) Provides “The courts provided for in this article, when exercising their judicial authority, shall uphold and adhere to the law as provided in the United States constitution, the constitution of New Mexico, statutes of the United States and federal regulations adopted pursuant thereto, established common law, New Mexico statutes and state regulations adopted pursuant thereto and, if necessary, the law of another state of the United States, provided that the law of the other state does not include Sharia law. The courts shall not consider or apply a rule of comity to the legal precepts of other nations or cultures, international law, laws promulgated by foreign governments or national laws of foreign countries if the consideration or application of the foreign precepts or laws would violate the public policy of the state of New Mexico or reduce or impair the rights of any resident of the state of New Mexico existing under New Mexico statutes or common law governing child custody, rights of married persons, property rights, protection from domestic violence or any criminal law. The courts shall not consider or apply Sharia law. The provisions of this section shall apply to all cases before the respective courts, including, but not limited to, cases of first impression.” In Senate Rules Committee.
Oklahoma HB 1552 Provides any court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision shall violate the public policy of this state and be void and unenforceable if the court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its rulings or decisions in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any law, rule, legal code or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the United States and Oklahoma Constitutions. Approved by House Judiciary Committee 3/1/11.
South Carolina HB 3490 Provides “As used in this section, the term “foreign law” means any law, rule, or legal code or system established and used or applied in or by another jurisdiction outside of the United States or its territories…A court, arbitrator, administrative agency, or other adjudicative, mediation, or enforcement authority may not enforce a foreign law if it would violate a constitutionally guaranteed right of this State or of the United States. The provisions of this section apply only to actual or foreseeable violations of the constitutional rights of a person caused by the application of the foreign law.” In House Judiciary Committee.
South Carolina SB 444 Provides “As used in this section, the term ‘foreign law’ means any law, rule, or legal code or system established and used or applied in or by another jurisdiction outside of the United States or its territories….A court, arbitrator, administrative agency, or other adjudicative, mediation, or enforcement authority may not enforce a foreign law if it would violate a constitutionally guaranteed right of this State or of the United States. The provisions of this section apply only to actual or foreseeable violations of the constitutional rights of a person caused by the application of the foreign law.” In Senate Judiciary Committee.
South Dakota HJR 1004 (Constitutional Amendment) Provides no South Dakota state court may apply international law, the law of any foreign nation, or any foreign religious or moral code with the force of law in the adjudication of any case under its jurisdiction. Tabled by Senate Judiciary Committee 2/17/11.
South Dakota SB 201 Declares “foreign law, legal code, or system, means any law, legal code, or system of a jurisdiction outside of any state or territory of the United States, including international organizations and tribunals, and applied by that jurisdiction’s courts, administrative bodies, or other formal or informal tribunals…Any court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision is void and unenforceable if the court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its rulings or decisions in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any law, legal code, or system that would not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted under the constitutions of the United States and the State of South Dakota.” Deferred to 41st legislative day (i.e. killed) by Senate Commerce and Energy Committee 2/16/11.
Texas HB 911 Provides “In this chapter, “foreign law” means a law, rule, or legal code of a jurisdiction outside of the states and territories of the United States…A ruling or decision of a court, arbitrator, or administrative adjudicator may not be based on a foreign law if the application of that law would violate a right guaranteed by the United States Constitution or the constitution of this state.” In House Judiciary & Civil Jurisprudence Committee.
Texas HB 999 Declares ““foreign law” means a law, rule, or legal code of a jurisdiction outside of the states and territories of the United States…A ruling or decision of a court, arbitrator, or administrative adjudicator may not be based on a foreign law if the application of that law would violate a right guaranteed by the United States Constitution or the constitution of this state.” In House State Affairs Committee.
Texas HB 1240 Declares ““foreign or international law or doctrine” means a law, rule, legal code, or principle of a jurisdiction outside of the states and territories of the United States, including international law, that is not codified or recognized by this state or the United States…A court, arbitrator, or administrative adjudicator may not base a ruling or decision on a foreign or international law or doctrine; or a prior ruling or decision that was based on a foreign or international law or doctrine.” In House Select Committee on State Sovereignty
Texas HB 3027 Declares ““foreign law” means a law, rule, or legal code of a jurisdiction outside of the states and territories of the United States…A ruling or decision of a court, arbitrator, or administrative adjudicator may not be based on a foreign law if the application of that law would violate a right guaranteed by the United States Constitution or the constitution of this state.”. In House (no committee).
Texas HJR 57 (Constitutional Amendment) Provides “A court of this state shall uphold the laws of the Constitution of the United States, this Constitution, federal laws, and laws of this state. A court of this state may not enforce, consider, or apply any religious or cultural law.” In House State Affairs Committee.
West Virginia HB 3220 Provides ““foreign law, legal code or system” means any law, legal code, or system of a jurisdiction outside of any state or territory of the United States, including, but not limited to, international organizations and tribunals, and applied by that jurisdiction’s courts, administrative bodies, or other formal or informal tribunals…It is the public policy of this state that the primary factor which a court, administrative agency, arbitrator, mediator or other entity or person acting under the authority of state law shall consider in granting comity to a decision rendered under any foreign law, legal code or system against a natural person in this state is whether the decision rendered either violated or would violate any right of the natural person in this state guaranteed by the Constitution of the State of West Virginia or the United States Constitution or any statute or decision under those Constitutions.” Died in House Judiciary Committee when legislature adjourned.
Wyoming HJR 8 (Constitutional Amendment) Prohibits court use of sharia law. Prohibits Wyoming courts from referencing law of other U.S. states if law of the other state does include sharia law. Requires Wyoming courts uphold and adhere to the law as provided in the constitution of the United States, the Wyoming constitution, the United States Code and federal regulations promulgated pursuant thereto, laws of this state, and established common law as specified by legislative enactment. Prohibits courts from considering the legal precepts of other nations or cultures including, without limitation, international law and Sharia law. Died in House Judiciary Committee when legislature adjourned.