From: Bob Marshall, Virginia Delegate
Date: February 6, 2012
Subject: Prohibit Foreign Law in Virginia Courts (HB 825)

Friends, 

My HB 825 (http://leg1.state.va.us/cgi-bin/legp504.exe?121+ful+HB825) provides that no Virginia court or administrative agency may apply foreign law unless required or authorized by the US or Virginia Constitutions or federal or Virginia law.  HB 825 passed the Courts Committee 10-6 Friday (2-3-12) despite a barrage of misinformation.  (Two Republicans opposed HB 825, one Democrat voted yes.)  I anticipate vigorous opposition when it is debated on the floor of the House of Delegates, possibly as early as this coming Tuesday!
 
The portion of HB 825 dealing with Virginia courts is virtually identical to a bill in Congress (HR 973) introduced by Rep. Sandy Adams (R-FL) which has 84 co-sponsors including seven Chairmen of House Committees, one former Attorney General of California now in Congress, two Committee Vice Chairmen, and five Virginia Republican Members of Congress.  
 
Please read my analysis below and forward this email to your friends and then contact your member of the VA House of Delegates ASAP:  [Contact your delegate: http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform]  
 
HB 825 affirms Freedom of Religion because it expressly cites the protections of the US and Virginia Constitutions.  The US Constitution’s First Amendment guarantees Freedom of  Religion and the Virginia Constitution affirms the freedom to practice or not to practice religion.  Therefore HB 825 does not violate religious freedom in any way.
 
Divorce settlements, foreign adoptions and wills relying on religious teaching can be enforced as private contract law.  Both the US and Virginia Constitutions prohibit legislatures from impairing the obligation of commercial contracts or contracts for private services.  That provisions in divorce settlements and wills may take their directives from religious teaching is irrelevant to the law.
 
HB 825 will not adversely affect Virginia businesses with foreign companies or countries.  Objection was made at the last minute by lobbyists from the VA Chamber of Commerce who stated before the Courts Committee that HB 825 will hurt business.  But HB 825 does NOT change centuries of contract law.
 
I contacted the offices of three Congressmen and the House or Representatives Judiciary Committee General Counsel for the Judiciary Committee’s Constitution Subcommittee.  The General Counsel informed me that he is in almost daily contact with US Chamber of Commerce representatives and that they NEVER expressed opposition of any kind to HR 973 from its introduction on 3/9/11, nor at the December, 2011 Judiciary hearing on the bill.   My HB 825 is identical in part to HR 973.
 
The offices of Congressmen Adams (FL), Goodlatte (VA), and Wolf (VA) all confirmed to me that they NEVER received opposition from the US Chamber of Commerce to the nearly identical federal bill, HR973.
 
Virginia opponents of HB 825 would have you believe that an eight year former Attorney General of California, the respective Chairs of seven House Committees (Ways and  Means, Financial Services, Government Operations, Education, Armed Services, Veterans Affairs, House Administration) the Vice Chairs of  two Committees (Agriculture and Science and Technology) plus five members of Virginia’s Congressional delegation (Wolf, Goodlatte, Forbes, Whittman, and Rigell) are all trying to make American business contracts more unattractive to foreign corporations and countries.  Opponent’s claims defy credulity.
 
I asked a representative of the VA Chamber on Friday morning to give me language before the hearing that evening that would address Chamber concerns.  None was furnished to me. I openly asked at the House of Delegates Courts Committee hearing for copies of letters that the VA Chamber may have sent to members of Congress expressing opposition to HR 973.  NONE were produced.
 
HB 825 is a solution to real and growing problems.  The entry of foreign law into our courts stretches from local state courts all the way to the US Supreme Court in decisions such as Lawrence v. Texas in 2003.
 
US Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said on Egyptian Al-Hayat TV,  January 30, 2012,  “I would not look to the US constitution, if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012.  I might look at the constitution of South Africa.  ... Canada has a Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  It dates from 1982.”  But our Canadian neighbors enjoy no First Amendment protection from government censors seeking to suppress and punish politically incorrect speech, yet this charter was recommended over our US Constitution by a Supreme Court Justice! 
 
At least 23 state courts including Virginia Trial and Appeals courts have confronted claims to unequal treatment of litigants based on legal claims not normally recognized in state courts. Our Virginia Court of Appeals addressed a foreign law question in 2010.   A 1991 Virginia Eastern Shore case involved incest with the defense arguing foreign law claims.
 
Interest in addressing foreign law abuses in American state courts increased significantly when in 2009 a New Jersey superior trial court judge denied a restraining order requested by a wife who sought protection from repeated marital rapes committed by her husband because his Islamic beliefs gave husbands an absolute right to coerce sex from his wife.  The judge held that the husband’s religious belief negated any criminal intent required under American law for conviction of sexual assault. 
 

In 2010, Louisiana enacted a law defining how foreign law may be applied in their state courts. HB 825 is needed to direct Virginia courts to not allow foreign law claims without Assembly authorization. In short, the General Assembly has not just the authority to act to define the reach and application of laws in our courts, we have a duty to do so to protect citizens, legal residents and others.   HB 825 is facing significant opposition.  Please contact your delegate TODAY.  

Contact Information:
703-361-5416 (office and fax)
703-853-4213 (cell) (preferred)