787 F. Supp. 397 (S.D.N.Y.) 1992
- A former government of Liberia gave money to Bickford to hold for Liberia
- In late 1989, rebel forces led by Charles Taylor invaded Liberia, and peace keeping force was sent into Liberia to stop the fighting; Taylor’s forces killed the then-president of Liberia
- At a peace conference, an interim government was created, and Amos Sawyer was named president; he was reelected at a second conference
- The interim government sued Bickford the Liberian assets that he held
- In this case, there is no question that the assets belonged to the state of Liberia. The question was about what government would be entitled to the assets – Taylor’s rebels (who controlled about 90% of the territory of Liberia and about 50% of the population), the Sawyer government (operating out of a hotel, and controlling the capital), someone else?
- Holding: The court found that the Sawyer government should get the money
- The court ruled this way because
- The money certainly belonged to Liberia.
- Because the US executive branch recognized the Sawyer government, the court found that the Sawyer government was entitled to the assets held by Bickford (the court chose to leave the question of government recognition up to the executive branch).
- US was reluctant to choose a side in Liberia’s civil war because it was not yet clear who would win; however, the court pushed for an answer as to state recognition, and the US decided to recognize the Sawyer government for the purposes of the case
- The US did not formally recognize the interim government, but conferred on it the same rights that a government would have.