Tuesday, May 25, 2010

US Amicus Brief To High Court Favors Vatican In Abuse Lawsuit

Last week, the United States filed an amicus brief (full text) with the U.S. Supreme Court after being invited to express its views on whether certiorari should be granted in Holy See v. Doe, (Docket No. 09-1). In the case, the 9th Circuit held that the "tortious act" exception in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act means that the Vatican is not shielded from a claim by a victim of sexual abuse based on the doctrine of respondeat superior. That exception (28 USC 1605(a)(5)) allows a suit (with certain exceptions) against a foreign state for damages "caused by the tortious act or omission of that foreign state or of any official or employee of that foreign state while acting within the scope of his office or employment". (See prior posting.)

The United States in its amicus brief essentially sided with the Vatican, but urged that instead of granting a full hearing on the appeal, the Court should grant cert, vacate the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand for further consideration. The U.S. urged, that if the Court is not willing to do this, it should deny certiorari. More specifically, the Justice Department argued that the 9th Circuit was wrong in holding that the sexual abuse was within the priest's "scope of employment" under Oregon law, a prerequisite for liability under the doctrine of respondeat superior. It argued further that the 9th Circuit "erred in conflating the FSIA's jurisdictional scope-of-employment inquiry with the separate question of respondeat superior liability under state substantive law." Today's Cath News reports on the filing of the brief.