Welcome to Kalamna, the student blog of the Hagop Kevorkian Center for Near Eastern Studies at NYU.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Florida Bill Targeting Foreign Law Fails to Pass

Last week, Florida "Senate Bill 1360: Application of Foreign Law in Certain Cases," failed to pass. "I think the best way to describe it is Anti-Sharia Bill 2.0," wrote Professor Michael Helfand. "The bill is an update on Florida's previous attempt to introduce this anti sharia/foreign law bill with some changes."

According to the blog Gavel to Gavel, the gist of the bill is as follows: "Any court decision or ruling based, in whole or in part, on any foreign law or legal code that does not grant the parties affected by the ruling the same fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges granted by the State Constitution or the Constitution of the United States violates public policy and is void and unenforceable." (Image source: Election Watch)
The terms "foreign law" and "legal code" are defined in the bill as: "any law, legal code, or system of a jurisdiction outside any state or territory of the United States, including, but not limited to, international organizations or tribunals, and applied by that jurisdiction's courts, administrative bodies, or other formal or informal tribunals. The term does not include the common law and statute laws of England […]."

The reactions to the Florida Senate Bill 1360 echoed responses to similar legislation in other many states. Religious Jews feared that halakha would be targeted by the bill, making it difficult or impossible to conduct divorces in Florida beth din courts. Many Florida Muslims felt that Islamic law (sharīʿa), although not mentioned by name – a wise move on the part of the Bill's sponsors, given that a similar bill was struck down in Oklahoma for mentioning shari'a --- was unfairly targeted.

"I repeat my original suggestion," wrote one Florida resident in favor of the Bill. "Let those who want to live under Sharia law return to countries ruled by such judicial codes."

The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) played a role in protesting the bill, while the organization American Laws for American Courts and its co-founder David Yerushalmi wrote model legislation that the Florida bill was based on. 

Reading further on in the bill, it is unclear what specifically is meant by the "fundamental liberties, rights, and privileges guaranteed by the State Constitution or the United States Constitution."

For further reading on the bill click here, here, here, and here.

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