United States v. Belmont

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Treaties and the Constitution Case: United States v. Belmont (1937; US) district court held in favor of Belmont. At supreme court

Procedural History: level.

Facts: A Russian corporation had deposited money with a private banker in NY, Belmont. The money later became property of the Soviet Gov't, b/c of a decree that nationalized all of the corporation assets, and the Soviet gov't wanted the money. Respondents (Belmont's executors) refused to pay, b/c the bank deposit was located in NY, and the decree couldn’t be enforced there, so to them it was still the property of the corporation, otherwise it would be an act of confiscation. However, there was an exchange of diplomatic correspondence btwn the US and the Soviet Union, whose purpose was to bring about a final settlement of claims btwn the 2 countries. However, the Soviet Union would take no steps to enforce any claims against US nationals; instead, the US would handle this. So, if the court would allow the US to handle this, it would be in contrary to NY public policy. Issue: Whether the US can handle this dispute, where the result would be contrary to NY public policy. - Yes. Holding: Reversed, judgment for US.

Reasoning: No state policy can prevail against a federal treaty, and the international compact here. Governmental powers over external affairs is exclusive to the national gov't. Especially when the treaty required the consent of the senate, where a judicial authority is invoked, state policies are irrelevant to the inquiry and decision.

Notes • Executive agreement • Diff from curtiss-wright - President entered into agreement on his own, without Congress delegating the power ○ Congress here did not pass a specific law like in Curtiss-Wright • Facts: ○ Corp deposited $ in Belmont's company ○ 1918 - USSR nationalizes the corp ○ 1933 - Roosevelt - Litvinov agreement ○ So now the $ is owed to US gov't. • Belmont's arguments: ○ President had no authority § Court says there is authority □ Power over external affairs exclusive to national gov't ○ Against NY public policy - illegitimate confiscation of private property § Court says no, Federal law trumps state law b/c of the Supremacy clause □ Diff in this case: Other cases had to do with Art II treaties (with congressional advice & consent), this is an executive agreement. Court is interpreting "treaties" in the supremacy clause to include executive agreements

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