International Law Keyed to Damrosche
Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations v. City of New York
Part of the buildings owned by Mongolia (D) and India (D) in New York City (City) (P) were used to accommodate its lower-level diplomatic employees. The New York law stipulates that real property owned and used exclusively by foreign government ambassadors or ministers plenipotentiary to the United Nations, is exempt from taxation.The City (P) however continually levied property taxes against India (D) and Mongolia (D) for the portion of the diplomatic office building which was being used by its lower-level employees and their families as their residence. Due to the operation of the state law, the default taxes were converted into tax liens held by the City (P) against the properties.A state-court suit was initially filed by the City (P) and this sought declaratory judgments to establish the liens’ validity. When the defendants began to argue that they were immune under the FSIA, which is “the sole basis for obtaining jurisdiction over a foreign state in federal court”, the case was transferred by the government (P) to the federal court.By relying on a FSIA exception withdrawing a foreign state’s immunity from jurisdiction where “rights in immovable property situated in the United States are in issue”, the district court disagreed but the court of appeals affirmed on the ground that the “immovable property” exception was applicable, and thus, the district court had jurisdiction over the City’s (P) suits. Certiorari was however granted by the U.S. Supreme Court.
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