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U.S. President Donald Trump walks across the South Lawn of the White House to board Marine One in Washington, D.C. Photo by Stefani Reynolds/CNP/Bloomberg.

Recently I’ve found myself thinking about a British case I read when I was a law student. Burmah Oil Co. (Burma Trading) Ltd. v. Lord Advocate was decided in 1964 by the Appellate Committee of the House of Lords, which was at the time the highest court of the United Kingdom. The case became famous because, after the court ruled that the government had a duty to pay a certain judgment, Parliament nullified the judgment by retroactive legislation. I’m thinking about it now not for that reason, but because of the underlying facts. Burmah Oil had sued because British troops had destroyed its refinery in 1942 to prevent it from falling into the hands of approaching Japanese forces. It was a classic case of scorched earth.

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