Hmong Law:

Readers who are interested in choice of law, and in the use of foreign law in U.S. courts, will likely be interested in this today's Minnesota Court of Appeals decision in Ramsey County ex rel. Yang v. Lee. The conclusion:

The county‟s assertion that the law of the Hmong governs is not implausible, but it is not supported by any authority that demonstrates that the county has correctly described the law of Thailand. The county did not offer any expert testimony regarding the legal effect of the Conflict of Laws Act and its application to Hmong living in Thailand, and appellant‟s expert on Hmong culture testified that he had no knowledge of Thai law regarding adoption. Even if the county is correct that the Conflict of Laws Act applies, the language of the act, on its face, suggests that to determine what law applies, more must be known about the facts of the case than that Yang, Lee, and Y.P.L. are all Hmong. Therefore, because the county has neither produced a foreign country‟s adoption decree for Y.P.L.‟s adoption nor demonstrated that the adoption satisfied the legal requirements for an adoption in Thailand, we conclude that the district court correctly determined that the county did not prove that the cultural adoption is recognized in Thailand as valid.

The backdrop, of course, is that people who move to America bring their legally defined family relationships (marriages, adoptions, and the like) with them. When American courts must then apply American law (e.g., child support law) that turns on those family relationships, they must determine and apply often obscure foreign law rules in the process.