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New York City Bar Association Files Amicus Brief in Oklahoma ‘Save Our State’ Amendment / Sharia Law Case

The City Bar has filed an amicus brief with the U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit in Awad v. Ziriax, regarding the “Save Our State Amendment” to the Oklahoma Constitution—approved in a referendum as State Question 755—which would prohibit Oklahoma courts from considering or using international law or Sharia Law.

The brief, by the City Bar’s Committee on Foreign and Comparative Law and joined by the Islamic Law Committee of the American Branch of the International Law Association, argues that SQ755, if allowed to become effective as part of the Oklahoma State Constitution, would violate the Supremacy, Full Faith and Credit, Contract, and Due Process Clauses of the U.S. Constitution, in addition to the patent violation of the Establishment and Equal Protection Clauses. Furthermore, the essential commercial interests of the citizens of Oklahoma would be severely jeopardized, as parties outside of Oklahoma could refuse to honor contracts and decisions governed by Oklahoma law, due to the lack of comity and reciprocity.

In addition to its discriminatory treatment of adherents to a particular religion, as argued by the plaintiff in this lawsuit, the Association’s amicus brief maintains that SQ755:

  • “impermissibly conflates foreign law, the law of foreign nations that is not binding in this country, and international law, which is or might be part of the supreme law of the land.” For example, SQ755 expressly includes treaties as a source of “international law.” But, as noted in the brief, “the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution expressly makes treaty obligations of the United States the supreme law of the land.”
  • interferes with the constitutional requirement that full faith and credit be given by each state to another state’s “public acts, records and judicial proceedings” by barring Oklahoma courts from considering or applying the law of any state that has any element of the exceedingly broad terms of “Sharia Law” or “Islamic Law”
  • would make it impossible to enforce a “choice of law” clause that would require application of any State law or law of a foreign country whose laws or court decisions have an element of “Sharia Law” or “Islamic Law,” and would risk other countries refusing to apply Oklahoma law in disputes involving Oklahoma residents or businesses
  • violates due process because the terms “Sharia Law” and “Islamic Law” are so vague as to defy application.
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