Constitutional Law

Alabama becomes seventh state to ban foreign law

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Alabama voters passed a constitutional amendment on Tuesday that bars the use of foreign law in ways that violate state law or rights.

The state is the seventh to ban foreign law as a result of a ballot measure, Governing reports. The author of the amendment, Birmingham lawyer Eric Johnston, told that a legislative committee will have to figure out where the measure fits within the state constitution.

The measure bars courts, arbitrators, administrative agencies and other adjudicators from applying or enforcing foreign law “if doing so would violate any state law or any right guaranteed by the Constitution of this state or of the United States.”

University of California at Los Angeles law professor Eugene Volokh, writing at the Volokh Conspiracy, says that provision doesn’t have a broad reach because in most cases there would be no constitutional problem. But another provision affecting choice-of-law provisions in contracts could have a broader application, he concludes. It reads: “No Alabama court shall be required by any contract or other obligation entered into by a person or entity to apply or enforce any foreign law.”

That language could mean choice-of-law contractual provisions are invalid in Alabama courts, or it could mean that Alabama courts can’t be required to apply such contractual provisions, but could choose to do so under Alabama choice-of-law rules, the Volokh says. “This will take some litigation to resolve,” he concludes.

In, 2012, an ultimately unsuccessful measure on Alabama’s ballot explicitly called for the ban of Shariah Law. And some have called this year’s measure an attack on Muslims, reported. Johnston said the law does not undermine the rights of Muslims. “We’ve got a religious freedom amendment in Alabama,” Johnston said. “All it says is pay attention to the religious freedom amendment. Women’s rights are compromised by Shariah rights if a lawyer in a custody case says, ‘Islam requires you to do this.’ It’s a help to judges. It doesn’t create any new laws.”

The other states with foreign law bans are North Carolina, Arizona, Kansas, Louisiana, South Dakota and Tennessee, according to the Governing article.

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