Second Circuit Rules on Meaning of “Immovable Property” Exception to the FSIA
Ownership of property connotes a bundle of related rights and obligations defined by local property law. A foreign state cannot assume the benefits of ownership–including the right to exclude others from the property with the assistance of the local government and, significantly, the right to sue those who violate its rights– while simultaneously disclaiming the obligations associated with them. When owning property abroad, a foreign state must follow all the same laws that pertain to private owners of such property, except to the extent that it can point to specific exceptions in that country’s agreements with the United States, treaties, or other sources of law. This principle–when owning property here, a foreign state must follow the same rules as everyone else–long predated the restrictive theory of sovereign immunity and the FSIA. We see no evidence that the FSIA was meant to alter it. We conclude that the “immovable property” exception to foreign sovereign immunity should be construed to include any case where what is at issue is: (1) the foreign country’s rights to or interest in immovable property situated in the United States; (2) the foreign country’s use or possession of such immovable property; or (3) the foreign country’s obligations arising directly out of such rights to or use of the property.
UPDATE: A word about the building itself. It is one of the celebrated modern buildings in New York, included in the Galinsky travel pack of modern buildings in New York. More here about the architect and the architecture.