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Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain

Brief Fact Summary. Alvarez (P) argued that he was held against his will by bounty hunters and brought to the United States.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. International law is part of U.S. law.

Points of Law - Legal Principles in this Case for Law Students.

A commentator noted in 1962 that, for the purposes of these borrowing statutes, the courts unanimously hold that a cause of action sounding in tort arises in the jurisdiction where the last act necessary to establish liability occurred; i.e., the jurisdiction in which injury was received.

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Facts. The claim of Alvarez (P) was that the bounty hunters who brought him to the United States detained him against his will.

Issue. Is international law part of the U.S. law?

Held. (Souter, J.) yes. International is part of U.S. law.  The first principal element of the law of nations covers the general norms regarding the relationship of nation states, which is the purview of the Executive and Legislative Branches of government. The second principal element of the law of nations falls within the judiciary, which is a body of judge-made law regulating the conduct of individuals situated outside domestic boundaries.
There is also a sphere in which the rule binding individuals for the benefit of other individuals overlaps with the norms of state relationships, including violation of safe conducts, infringement of the rights of ambassadors and piracy. Hence, international norms intended for the protection of individual may be considered by the court..

Discussion. A seminal case for the concept that international law is part of U.S. domestic law is excerpted by this short case and that international norms may be considered in determining individual rights in federal cases.

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