A Deeper Dive into the Cassirer Case: United States Supreme Court Grants Cert on Case Concerning Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act

This post is by Emilia Beuger (LL.M. Utrecht), JD Candidate at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law.

As noted in an earlier post on this site, the United States Supreme Court granted a petition for a writ of certiorari to the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation on September 30, 2021. Below is a more detailed discussion of the issues at play in this case.

This case originated in the state of California and was then appealed to the Ninth Circuit before filing a writ of certiorari to the Supreme Court of the United States. The central legal issue concerns the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), whose application and interpretation has been split across Circuit Courts.

The issue before the Supreme Court is whether a federal court hearing state law claims brought under the FSIA must apply the forum state’s choice-of-law rules to determine what substantive law governs the claims at issue, or whether it may apply federal common law. The state law is California’s choice-of-law test and the federal common law’s choice-of-law test is set forth in the Restatement (Second) Conflict of Laws. The FSIA does not have an express choice of law provision.

Out now: Fabrizio Marrella / Nicola Soldati (eds.), “Arbitration, Contracts and International Trade Law / Arbitrato, contratti e diritto del commercio internazionale. Essays in honor of Giorgio Bernini/ Studi in onore di Giorgio Bernini”, Milan, Giuffré – Francis Lefebvre, 2021.

This book celebrates the work and scholarship of Professor Giorgio Bernini, Honorary President of ICCA, who held the chair of European Union Law, Arbitration and International Commercial Law at the University of Bologna for almost 30 years. A very successful international lawyer, he was the Italian Minister of Foreign Trade and a Member of the Italian Antitrust Authority. Bernini has built a long career in the study and practice of arbitration with a record of 450 cases. The book is divided into an introduction and two parts, to highlight many of Bernini’s contributions to the Law.

In a special introductory section of the book, entitled ‘portraits of a pioneer’, some authors offer specific references to some of his many activities in the field: from the ICC Institute of World Business Law to the International Council for Commercial Arbitration, from the Italian Arbitration Association to his professional life as an international lawyer. Then, in the first part of the book, essays on Contract Law and International Trade Law have been collected. The second part is dedicated to arbitration in its many dimensions: domestic, international, commercial and investment Law.

New issue alert: RabelsZ 4(2021)

The latest issue of RabelsZ has just been published online. It contains the following contributions:


Jaakko Husa: Merging International Law and Comparative Law – Balancing Between Normative and Non-Normative, Volume 85 (2021) / Issue 4, pp. 745-774 (30), https://doi.org/10.1628/rabelsz-2021-0045

The relationship between comparative law and public international law is paradoxical. These fields are in principle close to each other but remote in practice. The emergence of comparative international law has changed the situation as it invites comparative law scholars to enter into discussion on international law. This article provides a critical analysis on the possibilities for comparative law in the field of international law. It discusses and explains why a non-normative understanding of comparative international law works well together with the pluralist conception of comparative law, and why a normative understanding of comparative international law is incompatible with it. This article explains why comparative law scholars do not welcome the use of comparative law for international law purposes with open arms.

Illumina & Grail: Another Step Toward The Europeanization Of U.S. Antitrust Law

This post is by Alberto Pomari, LLM Student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law and JD Student at the University of Verona School of Law.

Although the United States has historically led the way in the field of antitrust law, it is currently taking a backseat to the European Union, which has become the global role model in competition law. The Illumina/Grail merger illustrates this tendency.

In March 2021, the FTC challenged the merger and filed an administrative complaint for a temporary restraining order to keep Illumina and Grail from closing the transaction. Specifically, the FTC avers that Illumina’s acquisition of Grail will “lessen competition in the U.S. MCED test market by raising costs and hindering development efforts of Grail’s rivals.” Effectively, the FTC is leaning on the theory of harm, known as “increased leverage theory,” that aims at protecting competitors in the downstream market from the merged firm’s stronger “bargaining position in affiliate negotiations.” However, this theory was soundly rejected only a few years ago in United States v. AT&T, Inc. where the Court stuck with the traditional lodestar of American antitrust law, i.e. the consumer welfare theory. In a fanciful attempt to overrule the AT&T decision, the increased leverage theory was incorporated in Section 4 of the (already withdrawn) 2020 Vertical Merger Guidelines. Notwithstanding, after only two months, the FTC dropped its temporary restraining order petition as Illumina and Grail had, in the meantime, been prevented from merging under European competition law. Indeed, in view of its cooperation with the FTC, the European Commission announced in April 2021 an investigation into the transaction at stake pursuant to a new interpretation of Article 22 of the E.U. Merger Regulation.

Unlike its American counterpart, European competition law has traditionally served an array of policy goals that, going beyond the mere consumer welfare, include the protection of small- and medium-sized enterprises as well as the preservation of a competitive market structure. Accordingly, mergers like Illumina/Grail usually have a harder time passing the scrutiny of the European institutions. However, what is unprecedented in this case is the European Commission’s willingness to go the extra mile to crack down on an acquisition that involves two American companies, one of which—Grail—does not even have any business activity in the European Union.

UNCITRAL LAC DAY 2021 – 21 October 2021 (10:00 ARG time, 15:00 CEST time): International commercial mediation, expedited arbitration – in Spanish

The UNCITRAL LAC Day 2021 will take place online on Thursday 21 October 2021 at 10:00 Argentinian time and 15:00 CEST time (in Spanish). This event has been organised by UNCITRAL, the Organization of American States (OAS – OEA), Secretaría de Integración Económica Centroamericana / Secretariat for Central American Economic Integration (SIECA) and ASADIP.

The focus of the conference will be international commercial mediation and expedited arbitration. In particular, it will be discussed the work carried out by UNCITRAL’s Working Group II: Dispute Settlement.

By Jack Wass (Stout Street Chambers, New Zealand)

The enforcement of judgments from Chinese courts continues to generate controversy in common law countries. In Hebei Huaneng Industrial Development Co Ltd v Shi, the New Zealand courts have been faced with the argument that because Chinese courts are not independent of the political arms of government, they do not qualify as “courts” and their judgments are not entitled to recognition.

In 2020, the High Court rejected this argument in a jurisdictional context: see our report here and the issue has also arisen in the United States. The issue arose again, in the same case, on an application for summary judgment by the plaintiff judgment creditor. Here the argument received more traction from a different judge of the same court.

Italian Supreme Court rules on recognition and enforcement of a foreign judgment even if preceded by a worldwide freezing injunction

Written by Marco Farina, Italian lawyer, PhD in Civil Procedural Law at the University La Sapienza of Rome – Adjunct Professor of Civil Procedural Law at the University LUISS of Rome

In a judgment rendered on 16 September 2021, the Italian Supreme Court (Corte di Cassazione) reversed a decision from the Court of Appeal of Rome, which had denied recognition and enforcement of a monetary judgment issued by the Royal Court of Guernsey, due to a breach of the fundamental rights of defence allegedly occurred in the proceedings.

The Court of Appeal of Rome reasoned under Article 64 (b), of the Italian Act on Private International Law (Law 31 May 1995 no. 218), which provides, inter alia, that a foreign judgment may be not recognized and enforced if fundamental rights of defence have been breached in the foreign proceedings.

Brazilian Superior Court: foreign judgement on child support has to be enforced despite the excessive amount resulting from the economic pattern of the country of origin

By Julian Henrique Dias Rodrigues


The Brazilian Superior Court of Justice reinforced the understanding that a foreign judgment that sets the amount of child support must be enforced even if the high economic-financial standard of the country of origin gives rise to an excessive amount, when compared to the national standards.


The case concerns the enforcement in Brazil of a decision from the District Court of Bludenz, in the Republic of Austria, against a debtor residing in Brazil.

The Austrian court set the monthly amount of maintenance at EUR 290.00 and determined that the amounts in arrears totaled EUR 35,090.00.

Book Release: EUFams II Final Study

Thomas Pfeiffer/Quincy C. Lobach/Tobias Rapp (Eds.), “Facilitating Cross-Border Family Life – Towards a Common European Understanding”, Heidelberg University Publishing 2021 (link)

The EUFams II consortium has just released the project’s Final Study. The volume contains the papers presented at the project’s Final Conference. The contributors were invited to present historical developments, discuss the status quo, and draw the lines along which European family and succession law may develop. The authors hope to inspire the readership and the scientific community at large to engage in further research along and across these lines.

The book is available both online (open access) as well as in print (link). Its contributors are (in alphabetical order): Marlene Brosch, Laura Carballo Pineiro, Diletta Danieli, Rosario Espinosa Calabuig, Ivana Kunda, Quincy C. Lobach, Cristina M. Mariottini, Ulf Maunsbach, Nicolo Nisi, Cinzia Peraro, Thomas Pfeiffer, Paula Poretti, Tobias Rapp, Lenka Valkova, Ilaria Viarengo, Francesca Villata, Marcel Zühlsdorff, and Mirela Zupan.

The European Union is preparing an initiative to enact the implementing acts establishing the decentralised IT system to be used for cross-border service of documents and cross-border taking of evidence

This week the European Union has given notice to all stakeholders that it is preparing an initiative relating to justice and fundamental rights, the purpose of which is to enact the implementing acts establishing the decentralised IT system to be used for cross-border service of documents and cross-border taking of evidence. Click here and here.

This is in accordance with the Regulation (EU) 2020/1784 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2020 on the service in the Member States of judicial and extrajudicial documents in civil or commercial matters (service of documents) (recast) and the Regulation (EU) 2020/1783 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 November 2020 on cooperation between the courts of the Member States in the taking of evidence in civil or commercial matters (taking of evidence) (recast).

As stated in the notifications, the implementing acts will set out the technical specifications of the methods of communication and communication protocols, security objectives and relevant technical measures, minimum availability objectives and the establishment of a steering committee.

It is planned for the first quarter of 2022.