Unanimous Supreme Court Rules Federal Courts Not Bound to Defer to Foreign Governments’ Statements

June 19, 2018

On June 14, 2018, a unanimous United States Supreme Court issued Animal Science Products v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd., overturning a ruling by the Second Circuit that a U.S. court is bound to defer to a foreign government’s asserted interpretation of its own law.

The Supreme Court concluded that although courts should give respectful deference to a representation from a foreign sovereign regarding the meaning of its laws, such a statement should not be given “binding” effect as a matter of law. Animal Science Products sets a significant precedent, affirming the broad discretion afforded to courts under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 44.1 to “consider any relevant material or source” in reaching accurate determinations of foreign law.