Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1923

Abstract

From the decision of this novel case, reported as Pelzer v. United Dredging Co., we may infer that the New York courts regard unrecognized Mexico as a sort of legal vacuum. In granting the corporation's motion for judgment on the pleadings, the Supreme Court said: "The administratrix plaintiff is an officer of a foreign court. It is syllogistically true that if the foreign court has no recognized power here she may not assert a right derived through her appointment therefrom. The Mexican government is not de facto here, since recognition alone can make it so. It may have all the attributes of a ruling faction, a colony, a district of people, or maintain any other form of suzerainty in its established domain, but its power as a government remains nil without our patent of recognition. As the parent of the court it cannot have notice, either judicial or administrative, and surely the creature cannot be possessed of a power not given its creator. The duty to declare the legal incapacity to sue is paramount to a consideration of the evils attendant upon the failure of justice resultant upon this policy of international relations." It was apparently immaterial, in the court's view, that in fact Mexico existed south of the Rio Grande and that in fact it possessed a more or less effective government which included courts and a system of law. Until the United States Department of State had admitted, by word or act, that Mexico possessed a government, the New York courts felt constrained to remain legally ignorant and legally incapable of being enlightened. Such an attitude on the part of courts toward an unrecognized government or state has certain significant consequences. It requires that courts ignore important facts until the executive has seen fit to recognize them as such. It makes important private rights depend almost entirely upon the executive pleasure. In situations like that presented in the Pelzer case, it admittedly results in a miscarriage of justice. Is such an attitude required by sound legal doctrine or the established precedents of the law?