W.S. Kirkpatrick and Co. v. Environmental Tectonics Corp., International
493 U.S. 400 (1990)
Kirkpatrick and ETC were both
trying to win a construction contract in Nigeria. ETC won.
ETC won by bribing Nigerian
Bribery is technically
illegal in Nigeria.
Kirkpatrick sued ETC in US
Federal Court for damages.
ETC claimed that since the
contract was an official act of the country of Nigeria, suits in US
Courts were barred by the Act of State Doctrine.
The Trial Court dismissed the
case. Kirkpatrick appealed.
The Trial Court found that the
suit was barred by the Act of State Doctrine.
The Court found that a
judicial inquiry into the motivation of a sovereign act might result in
embarrassment to the sovereign, or constitute interference with the
conduct of US foreign policy.
The Court found that
allowing Kirkpatrick to make a bribery claim would require a finding that
foreign officials were criminals, and that might embarrass the Executive
Branch in its conduct of foreign relations.
The Appellate Court reversed.
The US Supreme Court affirmed
and allowed the case to proceed.
The US Supreme Court found
that the Act of State Doctrine did
not apply because nothing in the suit required a court to declare invalid
the official act of a foreign sovereign.
"The Act of State
Doctrine does not establish an
exception for cases and controversies that may embarrass foreign
governments, but merely requires that, in the process of deciding, the
acts of foreign sovereigns taken within their own jurisdiction shall