Victory in Defense of Former Mexican President

July 18, 2013
Litigation partners Jonathan Freiman and Tahlia Townsend won a total victory today in a case brought against the former President of Mexico, Ernesto Zedillo.

Mr. Zedillo, who is known as the man who brought democracy and respect for human rights to Mexico, was accused by ten Mexican plaintiffs of being responsible for a massacre that occurred while he was President in Acteal, Mexico. Freiman and Townsend filed a motion to dismiss the case, urging the district court to solicit the views of the U.S. State Department as to whether Zedillo was entitled to immunity as the former head of state of Mexico. The district court heeded the suggestion, and on receiving it, the State Department asked lawyers for both sides to present their views on immunity. Freiman explained to the State Department Legal Advisor why immunity was compelled under national and international law, and the State Department subsequently filed a formal "Suggestion of Immunity" in the district court.

Following extensive briefing and oral argument involving related proceedings in the Mexican trial and appellate courts, as well as the plaintiffs' claims that the Mexican constitution waives the immunity of that nation's former officials, Judge Michael Shea of the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut issued his opinion this morning. Quoting from Freiman's oral argument, Judge Shea held that courts are not free to second-guess State Department grants of immunity for former foreign officials.

Freiman is Chair of Wiggin and Dana's Appellate and Complex Legal Issues Practice Group. Townsend is Co-Chair of Wiggin and Dana's Export Compliance Practice Group.