The Supreme Court heard argument yesterday in Jam v. International Finance Corp. I wrote about the case last year. The issue in the case is simple. Under DC Circuit precedent construing the International Organizations Immunities Act, international organizations have immunity from suit to the same extent that foreign sovereigns had it in 1945, at the time of the enactment of the IOIA. Should the statute instead be construed to mean that international organizations have immunity from suit to the same extent that foreign sovereign have it today? In practice, the question seems to be: should international organizations be immune from suit for their commercial activities in the United States?
SCOTUSBlog has a review of the oral arguments. The post suggests that the Justices were skeptical of the DC Circuit’s rule of absolute immunity.
It seems to me the Court ought to be thinking about the employment law context. There is a whole body of law in the embassy and consulate context that distinguishes the employment of low-level, clerical, American employees from civil servants, supervisory employees, and the like. The employment of the former is commercial, the employment of the latter is not. A change in the law would open up international organizations with US employees to many more lawsuits, if the same commercial/non-commercial distinction were observed in that context, and I see no reason why it wouldn’t be.