Bans on court use of sharia/international law: withdrawn in VA, only 5 heavily modified bills introduced in 2013

January 14th, 2013 by Bill Raftery Leave a reply »

This year is proving to be a substantially different one in terms of legislative efforts to ban the use of sharia or international law in state courts. By January 14 in 2011 (the last most comparable year; some legislatures do not meet in even numbered years) there were at least a dozen bills filed. So far this year there are only 5 bills in as many states and at least one such bill has already been withdrawn.

Unlike in the bills introduced previously, which specifically mentioned sharia or broadly and generally prohibited reference to international law, most the bills introduced so far are limited to only a particular case type or area of law and provide a series of exceptions, in particular with reference to commercial contracts.

Even then, the first such bill to be considered, Virginia’s HB 1332 which was limited to domestic relations cases, was stricken at the request of the author when it was first heard in a subcommittee last week.

List of bills below the fold

Bill Provisions Status
Alabama SB 4 (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.” Prefiled in Senate Judiciary Committee.
Florida SB 58 Provides any court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency ruling or decision violates the public policy of this state and is void and unenforceable if the court, arbitration, tribunal, or administrative agency bases its ruling or decision in the matter at issue in whole or in part on any foreign law, legal code, or system that does not grant the parties affected by the ruling or decision the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges guaranteed by the State Constitution or the United States Constitution. Establishes exceptions for business contracts, corporations, partnerships, or other forms of business association. Permits religions organizations to adjudicate ecclesiastical matters. Provides that proposed law is not to be in conflict with U.S. treaties. Prefiled (no committee).
South Carolina SB 81 Provides “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.” Prefiled in Senate Judiciary Committee.
Texas HJR 43 (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.” Prefiled (no committee).
Virginia HB 1322 Provides that if a court, arbitrator, administrative agency, or other adjudicative or enforcement authority bases its decision in a domestic relations matter on foreign law, and such decision violates a person’s rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and Constitution of Virginia, then such decision will be void as violative of the public policy of the Commonwealth. Stricken at request of author/patron.

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