Ban fear mongering in the courts
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon did a favor for the whole nation last week when he vetoed a bill that would have banned recognition of all foreign laws by that state's courts.
The veto offered a respite from the rush by many legislatures to impose such bans, which are rooted in anti-Muslim fear-mongering - the wrong-headed notion that Islam-based Sharia law somehow will take root in U.S. courts.
The first phrase of the First Amendment, of course, is "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion."
Because of broad language, such bans also would preclude the use of aspects of foreign laws for legitimate purposes. As noted by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, parties to cross-border commercial litigation sometimes find it useful to agree on use of a foreign law if it does not conflict with U.S. law or policy. A court might recognize a judgment by a foreign court, for example, if the underlying law does not contradict the U.S. Constitution, law or public policy.
The same is true involving international marriage and custody cases. Courts sometimes rely on foreign laws to help resolve those disputes, but do not recognize foreign statutes that conflict with U.S. law. Some countries allow polygamy, for example, but no U.S. state or court recognizes it.
Courts have recognized foreign laws for a long time, and the republic stands. Lawmakers should keep unwarranted fear out of the courtroom.