This very litigation has, of course, been a prime exhibit demonstrating the antisuit injunction principle. As discussed in Part I, supra, the British courts issued several such injunctions, this Court followed suit in 1982, and, as also noted above, this Court's antisuit injunction was upheld both by the U.S. Court of Appeals and, indirectly, by the British House of Lords.
What are the reasons for these exceptions to the free speech principle? The basic rationale for the exceptions related to the administration of justice is that the "unhindered and untrammeled functioning of our courts is part of the very foundation of our constitutional democracy,"
for it is clear that when a court is prevented by outside pressure or other interference from adjudicating claims between litigants before it, the rule of law is significantly impaired. In implementation of these principles, some of the restrictions on speech have been justified as necessary to ensure a fair trial of issues before the court,
others as appropriate to protect the forum's jurisdiction to provide a full and fair adjudication of the claims,
and still others "to assure that the administration of justice at all stages is free from outside control and influence."
All this is so well established that it may be regarded as hornbook law. What remains to be considered, however, is whether the Court has the authority, consistent with the First Amendment, to enjoin the particular kind of interference with the administration of justice that is being threatened by these defendants.
Here, too, we may begin with what is clearly established. Defendants' threatened action -- to apply to the British Parliament or other British governmental authorities for the enactment of legislation that would make it impossible for Laker to continue to litigate here -- would have no purpose other than to interfere with the jurisdiction of this Court. Must the Court nevertheless allow defendants to proceed? Defendants answer in the affirmative, pointing again and again, in various ways, to what they assert is a direct parallel: a petition by a United States citizen or corporation to the United States Congress, requesting the enactment of legislation either to alter the substantive law under which the court is proceeding,
or to deprive the court of jurisdiction over the particular class of cases.
Certainly, this Court would be without power to interfere by way of an injunction with petitioning or lobbying for that kind of legislation. Yet the Court is convinced
at the same time that it does not lack such power with respect to the petitioning of the British Parliament. The difference between the two situations is not attributable to any assumption that the United States Congress possesses, somehow, an intrinsically higher status than the British Parliament -- of course it does not. The real difference between the two bodies in the present context is that the Congress, because it makes the laws under which this Court operates, would be exercising legitimate power were it to pass legislation with respect to these laws, while the Parliament -- which has no role with respect either to United States substantive law or to federal court jurisdiction -- would be improperly interfering with the jurisdiction of what to it is a foreign court. Needless to say, the principle operates equally in reverse. Thus, the Congress could not arrogate to itself the power to interfere with the legitimate jurisdiction of a British court by enacting legislation prohibiting either that court or the plaintiff before it from proceeding; and if it attempted nevertheless to do so, the British courts would not be bound to respect its status or its interference.
That difference -- between a petition to the United States Congress with respect to a matter pending before a federal court and a petition to the British Parliament with respect to a matter before that same [federal] court -- may be analogized to the difference between an appeal from a decision of this Court to the U.S. Court of Appeals for this Circuit, and an effort to overturn or otherwise to nullify such a decision by asking a court in Great Britain (or France or Iran) to abort the action by one means or another.
The former is proper, the latter is not.
Since from the point of view of United States law, under which this Court operates, the effect of defendants' proposed legislative and executive petitioning activities could only be an improper interference with legitimate jurisdiction, there is no reason whatever why the Court should regard these activities as more properly clothed with First Amendment protection than defendants' earlier efforts to have the British courts interfere with that jurisdiction.
For these reasons, the Court rejects defendants' reliance on the First Amendment.
Defendants argue next that the injunction sought by Laker would violate fundamental principles of international law and generally-recognized principles of justice. More specifically, British Caledonian states that interference with what they claim are their free speech and petitioning rights would violate such international agreements as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
and the Helsinki Accords.
These arguments entirely lack merit.
It is obvious that international law based upon the "principles of justice generally recognized by states that have reasonably developed legal systems,"
does not prohibit a state from balancing free speech and petition rights against other significant rights and interests. There is, for example, nothing in international law or universal principles of justice to preclude a nation from enacting and enforcing laws which punish libel, contempt of court, or speech causing a clear and present danger of injury to other individuals. Compare decisions cited in notes 23 to 32, supra. Indeed, numerous British statutes impinge upon free speech far more trenchantly than is customary in the United States or than would occur under the injunction in this case.
The Court has not heard defendants argue that all such statutory enactments and judicial decisions, both British and American, are violative of treaties, international agreements,
or international law generally.
Properly viewed, therefore, reliance on international law principles adds nothing to defendants' arguments.
International law would support defendants' position only if "principles of justice generally recognized by states that have reasonably well developed legal systems" (see note 45, supra) were somehow far broader in protecting speech and petition than either the United States Constitution or British law. The very recital of that proposition demonstrates its lack of merit.
The First Amendment to the United States Constitution may well provide the broadest protection to rights of expression known to the civilized world. If defendants cannot make out a violation of free speech or petition rights under that basic constitutional provision, they surely cannot do so under general principles of international law.
International comity, as the Court of Appeals recently explained in this very case,
is the degree of deference a domestic forum should pay to the act of a foreign government not otherwise binding on the forum.
Since comity varies according to the factual circumstances surrounding each claim for its recognition, the absolute boundaries of the duties it imposes are inherently uncertain. However, the central precept of comity teaches that, when possible, the decisions of foreign tribunals should be given effect in domestic courts, since recognition fosters international cooperation and encourages reciprocity, thereby promoting predictability and stability through satisfaction of mutual expectations. The interests of both forums are advanced -- the foreign court because its laws and policies have been vindicated; the domestic country because international cooperation and ties have been strengthened. The rule of law is also encouraged, which benefits all nations.