Last summer the North Carolina legislature passed a law banning the use of Sharia law in North Carolina courts. The statute is an odd one . It does not mention Sharia law, only foreign law. But the law's supporters had Sharia law in mind. The statute -- maybe in some kind of odd resonance with Shelley v. Kraemer -- prohibits the enforcement of contracts that infringe fundamental constitutional rights. This is a way of allowing courts to review private agreements regarding divorce and custody (I'm guessing mostly pre-nuptual agreements) if they refer to Sharia law [or other foreign law] as a way of resolving a dispute. It has been codified in the North Carolina General Statutes in Chapter 1. Its provisions include:
§ 1-87.13. Public policy
In recognition that the United States Constitution and the Constitution of North Carolina constitute the supreme law of this State, the General Assembly hereby declares it to be the public policy of this State to protect its citizens from the application of foreign law that would result in the violation of a fundamental constitutional right of a natural person. The public policies expressed in this section shall apply only to actual or foreseeable violations of a fundamental constitutional right resulting from the application of the foreign law. (2013-416, s. 1.)
§ 1-87.14. Nonapplication of foreign law that would violate fundamental constitutional rights.
A court, administrative agency, arbitrator, mediator, or other entity or person acting under
the authority of State law shall not apply a foreign law in any legal proceeding involving, or recognize a foreign judgment involving, a claim for absolute divorce, divorce from bed and board, child custody, child support, alimony, or equitable distribution if doing so would iolate a fundamental constitutional right of one or more natural persons who are parties to the proceeding. (2013-416, s. 1.)
§ 1-87.15. Interpretation of contracts providing for choice of foreign law.
(a) In the interpretation or enforcement by a court, administrative agency, arbitrator, mediator, or other entity or person acting under the authority of State law of any contract or other agreement that provides for the choice of a foreign law togovern its interpretation or the resolution of any claim or dispute, the court or administrative agency shall preserve the fundamental constitutional rights of natural persons who are parties to the contract or other agreement.
(b) If enforcement of any provision in a contract or other agreement for the choice of foreign law would result in a violation of a fundamental constitutional right of one or more of the natural persons who are parties to the contract or other agreement,the agreement or contract shall be modified or amended to the extent necessary to preserve the fundamental constitutional rights of the natural persons. (2013-416, s. 1.)
§ 1-87.16. Interpretation of contracts providing for choice of foreign venue or forum.
If the enforcement of any provision in a contract or other agreement providing for a choice of a foreign venue or forum would result in a violation of a fundamentalconstitutional right of one or more of the natural persons who are parties to the contract or other agreement, that provision shall be modified or amended to the extent necessary to preserve the fundamental constitutional rights of the natural persons. (2013-416, s. 1.)
Because I am always looking to incorporate North Carolina legislation and cases into my courses, I think that I probably ought to pay some attention to this statute. I mean, if we're banning the use of Sharia law here in North Carolina, surely it's being used with some frequency, no? And I thought that I'd crowd-source a couple of issues related to this. First, does anyone have any recent North Carolina cases involving Sharia law that I should be teaching? Or North Carolina separation and custody agreements that I could use to illustrate how Sharia law is appearing in North Carolina? Does this come up in some way in wills or trusts? I'm not sure -- I don't know as the statute would protect beneficiaries under a will or trust that in some way uses Sharia law to determine eligibility, though maybe a beneficiary might try something along those lines....
Also, I'm planning on a field trip up to Hillsborough to look for instances where lawyers in the Orange County Superior Court invoked Sharia law. I'll let you know how that goes. But perhaps Orange County isn't the best place to look for this? Do our North Carolina readers have any suggestions on the counties where Sharia law has been invoked most frequently? Perhaps I should think about Alamance, Granveille, or Halifax Counties? Or maybe, because of this statue, I need to look in Virgina counties. Would Lunenburg County be a reasonable place to look for this? Suggestions most appreciated because as I say I want my property -- and especially trusts and estates -- classes to be up-to-date.
The illustration is of the antebellum Orange County Courthouse in Hillsborough.
Update: As Greg and Brian both pointed out, this was an April Fool's day post, designed to poke some fun at the North Carolina legislature. But there is serious scholarship discussing similar legislation in other states. John Parry of Lewis and Clark wrote "International Law in State Courts: Sovereignty, Resistance, Contagion, and Inevitability" about Oklahoma's anti-Sharia law statute. Lumen Mulligan of the University of Kansas published an analysis of a similar Kansas statute in 5 Kansas Code of Civil Procedure Annotated (2013 supp.).