Bruno A. Ristau
1929 - 2017


The International Law wishes to remember the life and global contributions of our esteemed colleague Bruno A. Ristau, who passed away this past week.

Born in Poland, Bruno Ristau arrived in the United States as a young man shortly after World War II. A displaced person with barely $20 pinned to his pocket, Bruno joined his sisters and their extended family in Cleveland, Ohio.

After his service in the US Army, Mr. Ristau earned a J.D. degree  (Case Western Reserve University, 1958) and an LL.M. degree in international law (Georgetown University, 1960). Mr. Ristau was a member of the bars of the District of Columbia, New York, and Ohio.

From 1963-1981 he served as Director of the Office of Foreign Litigation at the U.S. Department of Justice, in which position he supervised all suits by or against the United States in foreign courts. He is a co-author of the U.S. Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 and testified before Congress in support of the Act. For his contributions to related issues, Mr. Ristau received the Attorney General’s Distinguished Service Award in 1974.

Mr. Ristau also served as the U.S. Delegate to The Hague Conference on Private International Law in 1977-1978.

In 1979 Bruno served as Clerk of Court in a special US Court convened in Berlin to try a case concerning the hijacking of a Polish Airliner by East German fugitives seeking to gain their freedom in US-Occupied Berlin.  The trial became the basis of a book and movie – “Judgment in Berlin”.

Mr. Ristau served as Head of Foreign Litigation in the Civil Division at the U.S. Dept. of Justice.  In private practice Bruno became a leader in transnational and international litigation in civil and commercial matters.  His expertise in these issues is reflected in his internationally recognized publication “International Judicial Assistance”. 

International Judicial Assistance is a two-volume treatise published by the International Law Institute in Washington, D.C. [currently being updated] which is recognized as the authoritative work and practice guide for attorneys engaged in transnational litigation.  International Judicial Assistance has been cited repeatedly by the U.S. Supreme Court, lower courts, and in scholarly publications. 

Mr. Ristau's private practice consisted of transnational litigation and international commercial arbitration. He frequently represented foreign governments and international companies in court. See, e.g., Republic of Argentina v. Amerada Hess Shipping Corp, 488 U.S. 428 (1989). Mr. Ristau served as a sole arbitrator and as a member of AAA and ICC arbitration panels, and chaired an ICC panel in a $200-million transnational commercial dispute. Mr. Ristau also advised clients on a variety of international law matters including but not limited to, sovereign immunity, diplomatic immunity, and international treaties.

Having come from a long line of teachers, Bruno served as an adjunct and visiting professor of law at The American University and The George Washington University in Washington, D.C. beginning in 1984.

Mr. Ristau taught courses on international commercial arbitration, international judicial assistance, international trade, and conflict of laws.

Bruno will be remembered by his professional colleagues not only for his professional accomplishments, but also for his dear love of his family, and country.