Embassy Law Web Log   
Washington, DC, USA      

Embassy Loses, Then Appears in Court and Wins

A solid lesson to embassies and foreign sovereigns sued in an American court is found in the January 25, 2019 decision in Dahman v. Qatar. An embassy terminated the employment of an accountant after he remained in his embassy position for many more years than his contract provided for. The employee claimed age discrimination under federal and District of Columbia law and obtained a default against the embassy and the foreign state. The defendants had not responded to the court or taken de­fen­sive action.

When the court set a hearing to determine damages, the defendants reacted, re­que­sting that the court vacate the default, and the court has now dismissed the action. The United States District Court for the District of Columbia took note of the foreign sovereign immunity defense, the forum non conveniens defense and the arbitration clause in the employment contract. Ultimately, the validity of the arbitration clause and its forum selection as well as the public-interest factors caused the court to dismiss the action from the forum non conveniens. -- Clemens Kochinke, partner, Berliner Corcoran & Rowe LLP, Washington, DC.

Disclaimer: The author's firm assists embassies with employment and other matters and represented the defendants on the record in this matter.

Another Scalp on the Dotard's Belt: E.U. Mission

Just before Christmas, all research supported the status of the Delegation of the European Union to the United States in Washington as a diplomatic mission under international and American law. Deutsche Welle first reported on January 8, 2019 that its status has been changed. Voice of America confirms that the change is a downgrade. On its website, VOA states: VOA is part of the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM), the government agency that oversees all non-military, U.S. international broadcasting. It is funded by the U.S. Congress. The tone of VOA's report indicates that the propaganda agency appears startled by the news.

That tone may reflect that perhaps Congress is as surprised as the Delegation and the international diplomatic community. The alleged dotard in the White House has completed another chaotic move.

The legal implications of the change--if it turns out to be permanent--are many. Will the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations continue to govern the Delegation's immunity? Or will the International Organizations Act apply? Is the Office of Foreign Mission the proper contact for administrative matters? Will the tax regime governing local hires change? From a legal perspective, the development is fascinating. -- Clemens Kochinke, partner, Berliner Corcoran & Rowe LLP, Washington, DC.