Verlinden B.V. v. Central Bank of Nigeria: Expanding Jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act

Bergum, Patricia E. | January 1, 1984

In 1976 Congress enacted the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act’ to clarify the law surrounding actions in United States federal courts against foreign states. Congress intended to establish “the sole and ex- clusive standards to be used in resolving questions of sovereign immu- nity” The Act provides comprehensive guidelines on when and how a party can bring suit against a foreign state. By contrast, Verlinden B. V v. Central Bank of Nigeria addresses who can bring suit under the Act. In Verlinden, the Supreme Court interpreted the Act to enable not only domestic plaintiffs, but also foreign plaintiffs, to sue foreign defendants in the federal courts under certain circumstances.’ Having determined that the Act allows foreign parties to sue foreign sovereigns in United States courts, the Court further held that constitutionally-based federal interests in foreign affairs and regulation of foreign commerce provide sufficient basis for federal jurisdiction in all such suits.’ By unanimously ruling that the resolution of suits brought by for- eign plaintiffs under the FSIA does not exceed the scope of judicial power delineated in Article III of the Constitution, the Supreme Court made a strong move to facilitate Congress’ ability to influence and regu-late foreign commerce. The Court’s holding may also reflect a larger trend toward greater United States intervention in world affairs.