Friday, December 6, 2013

Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations v. City of New York case brief

Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations v. City of New York case brief summary
551 U.S. 193 (2007)

Respondent New York City filed complaints in state court seeking declaratory judgments to establish the validity of tax liens. Petitioner permanent missions to the United Nations from India and Mongolia removed the cases to federal court. The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a denial of dismissal under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA), 28 U.S.C.S. § 1602 et seq. Certiorari was granted.

The governments of India and Mongolia both owned buildings in New York City where their diplomatic employees and their families resided while serving the governments' permanent missions to the United Nations. For several years, the City of New York had levied property taxes against the missions for the portions of their buildings used to house lower level employees. The missions, however, refused to pay the taxes. By operation of New York law, the unpaid taxes eventually converted into tax liens held by the City against the two properties.


  • The Court held that contrary to the missions' position, 28 U.S.C.S. § 1605(a)(4) of the FSIA did not expressly limit itself to cases in which the specific right at issue was title, ownership, or possession. 
  • Neither did it specifically exclude cases in which the validity of a lien was at issue. 
  • Rather, the exception focused more broadly on "rights in" property. 
  • The Court held that because a tax lien inhibited one of the quintessential rights of property ownership--the right to convey, it was plain that the suit to establish the validity of the liens implicated rights in immovable property and thus fell under 28 U.S.C.S. § 1605(a)(4).

The judgment denying dismissal based on foreign sovereign immunity was affirmed and the case was remanded for further proceedings.


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