Joe McManus and David Butzer recently prevailed on a motion to dismiss before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia that hinged on whether a foundation created by a foreign country was acting as a “foreign state or political subdivision of a foreign state” or as an “agency or instrumentality of a foreign state” by constructing a museum. McManus and Butzer argued that the foundation was an “agency or instrumentality” and that it did not have sovereign immunity. The court agreed, determining that the foundation did not have sovereign immunity because the act of establishing a cultural museum was commercial, not governmental. It mattered not that the foundation was created through a presidential decree under a country’s statute. The court reasoned that museums can be privately built and operated (referring to DC’s new “Museum of the Bible”) even if they are focused on promoting a certain culture or tradition.
Smith v. Overseas Korean Cultural Heritage Found., 279 F. Supp. 3d 293 (D.D.C. 2018)