April 22, 2016 Radio Commentary

Foreign Law or U.S. Law

Radio Commentary, 90.7, 91.7 New Life FM, April 22, 2016 – By Sue Ella Deadwyler

Please answer this question: Would you rather be judged by laws passed in the United States or by laws used in foreign countries? Your answer is important, because it’s been an issue in several states, including Georgia, for several years, and still hasn’t been settled in Georgia!

In 2011 almost 20 states, including Georgia, had legislation banning the use of foreign law in their judicial systems. Since then, ten states passed their bills into law, but during the same five years, the Georgia legislature refused to mandate exclusive use of U.S. and Georgia law in court cases.

Currently, twenty-two states have almost-passed American Laws for American Courts (ALAC), or may be considering it. Georgia is one of those 22 states. Georgia’s bill introduced in 2011 had two sections – a prohibition against the use of foreign law and another section allowing trial venues to be moved into local counties. That bill died in committee.In 2015 Georgia Representative Hightower introduced H.B. 171 using language in the previous bill. But the House Judiciary Committee rendered it totally useless by deleting all references to foreign law. They, actually, cut the bill in half, leaving only the section about local venues. Thankfully, the gutted bill died in committee at the end of the 2016 session.

Considering the facts, Georgia’s lack of action is disturbing. A January 2015 report documenting 146 cases in 32 states revealed that parties to litigation wanted foreign law to influence the court’s decision, and twenty-seven of those decisions did comply with foreign law.

Of the 146 cases, two were tried in Georgia; ten were tried in California; and nine each were tried in New Jersey, New York and Texas; 33 were tried in federal court. The other 27 states had fewer cases.

Consider the crux of the problem. When foreign law influences judicial outcomes, women are often denied equal protection and due process. Protecting family law from foreign intervention is particularly important in decisions about child custody, visitation, financial support, divorce, and protection orders, since foreign law often does not support constitutional rights assured in U.S. state and federal constitutions.

Failure to prohibit foreign law in Georgia courts jeopardizes the constitutional rights and privileges of litigants who expect justice based on U.S. laws passed by U.S. officials elected by U.S. voters, and upheld by U.S. foundational documents. Maybe the new crop of legislators in 2017 will understand that U.S. and Georgia law must be the only law used in Georgia. Then, pass legislation to make it happen. For Georgia Insight I’m Sue Ella Deadwyler, your Capitol correspondent.