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Keller Rohrback L.L.P. Files First Suit of Its Kind by Plaintiff Nation Against United States for Treaty Breach

Republic of the Marshall Islands v United States, et al.
United States District Court for the Northern District of California
Case No.: 14-01885

Case Overview

Seattle’s Keller Rohrback L.L.P. announces that it represents the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the lawsuit, filed Thursday, April 24, against President Barack Obama and the United States of America for breach of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (the “Treaty” or “NPT”). In the history of American jurisprudence, no litigation like this has ever been brought by a foreign nation against the United States in U.S. Federal District Court.

The Marshall Islands specifically alleges that the United States is in breach of its obligation to pursue negotiations on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and nuclear disarmament. In fact, the Complaint alleges, the United States has never once, during the 44 year history of the Treaty, convened or even called for such negotiations to begin.

The United States has plans to spend $1 trillion over the next three decades advancing its nuclear weapons systems, paying only lip service to its NPT obligations on nuclear arms racing and disarmament. But the record since the NPT entered into force is clear and the United States is in fact “in breach of its obligations under Article VI of the Treaty,” concludes International Law Expert Burns H. Weston, a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Bessie Dutton Murray Distinguished Professor of Law Emeritus and Senior Scholar of the UI Center for Human Rights at The University of Iowa College of Law.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Marshall Islands, Tony A. deBrum, emphasizes as Plaintiff in this lawsuit that the Marshallese people “have suffered the catastrophic and irreparable damage of these weapons, and we vow to fight so that no one else on earth will ever again experience these atrocities.” The Complaint alleges that while the U.S. purports to call for enforcement by other nations of other treaty and international legal obligations around weapons of mass destruction, it remains staunchly opposed to convening negotiations with regard to complete nuclear disarmament.

“As to the legal issues, either a treaty with the United States means something or it does not—it’s either enforceable or it’s not. Let’s all hope the United States doesn’t claim it’s not,” said Lynn Lincoln Sarko, Managing Partner of Keller Rohrback. “It is possible that additional countries may wish to join in this litigation, and we certainly are open to that possibility,” added Sarko.

The Marshall Islands also today filed nine unprecedented Applications instituting proceedings in the Hague at the International Court of Justice to hold all nine nuclear weapon countries (the U.S., Russia, the UK, France, China, India, Israel, Pakistan, and North Korea) accountable for flagrant violations of international law with respect to their nuclear disarmament obligations.

If you wish to discuss this announcement, you may contact attorney Laurie Ashton at, or attorney Lynn Sarko at

For more information on an advocacy campaign supporting the Plaintiff nation, see

Case Status

On July 13, 2015, The Marshall Islands filed an appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, following the District Court’s decision to grant Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss Plaintiff’s Complaint.

Keller Rohrback L.L.P. is headquartered in Seattle with offices in Phoenix, New York, Oakland, Missoula, and Santa Barbara. The firm has successfully represented individuals, classes, business entities, and governments, in vast, multiparty, multidistrict litigation, against some of the most powerful entities worldwide, including ExxonMobil, JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, and Microsoft.


If you would like more information regarding this case, please contact
attorney Laurie Ashton
or attorney Lynn Sarko at

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