Foreign laws targeted again

State Sen. Brian Nieves wants lawmakers this year to pass a rewritten version of his law telling Missouri courts they can’t enforce foreign laws that don’t have the same rights as Missourians have under the state and U.S. constitutions.

Gov. Jay Nixon vetoed last year’s version of the proposal — and lawmakers fell one vote short of overriding that veto during the Sept. 11 veto session.

Nieves, R-Washington, calls the proposed law the “Civil Liberties Defense Act,” and it declares that “it shall be the public policy of this state to protect its citizens from the application of foreign laws when the application of a foreign law will result in the violation of a right protected by the constitutions of the state of Missouri and the United States, including, but not limited to, due process, freedom of religion, speech, or press, and any right of privacy.”

Nieves told the Senate’s General Laws Committee Tuesday: “The veto letter talked about the governor having some concern about whether or not the law would have called into question any foreign adoptions.”

He didn’t note that agencies helping with international adoptions had questioned the law’s possible effects on those adoptions and sought Nixon’s veto because they worried the bill might create problems for Missouri families raising those children.

Nieves said he thought it should “have already been obvious” that out-of-country adoptions weren’t affected by the 2013 law.

“We went back and rewrote the bill, and have expressly taken care of that particular concern,” he said.

This year’s version tells courts the law won’t “conflict with any federal treaty or other international agreement to which the United States is a party to the extent that such treaty or international agreement preempts or is superior to state law on the matter at issue.”

Lobbyist Abram Messer of the Missouri Family Network told the committee: “Those issues are all covered under the Hague Convention — we’re just drawing (the governor’s) attention to that.”

Although Nieves didn’t mention it during Tuesday’s committee hearing, Nixon’s veto letter last June also said the 2013 law would “undermine the freedom to contract,” by rendering “‘mutually agreed upon’ contracts and contractual provisions ‘void and unenforceable’ if they include or are governed by foreign law from a country whose legal system is ‘inconsistent’ with the Missouri and United States constitutions.”

Nieves told the committee he’d worked with the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry on the business community’s concerns about international contracts and agreements.

Jay Atkins, the Chamber’s general counsel and lobbyist, testified: “We did have a small concern about the choice of law in certain legal proceedings, (and) we are satisfied that those have been adequately taken care of.”

No one testified Tuesday against the new version.


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