The Cutting Case 1887 USA v Mexico | Passive Personality Principle

In this blog, we will talk about the Cutting case i.e. Mexico V USA 1887. Before going into the Cutting case let’s talk about Passive Personality Principle.

Passive Personality Principle

The very norm of law is that it punishes any citizen for doing something illegal in that particular country. This passive personality principle is an exception to this. According to the passive personality principle, any state can punish any non-citizen wrongdoer if the wrong is done to any citizen of that state. This principle gives states the right to claim jurisdiction over crimes against their nationals that are committed abroad. One of most leading cases of this principle is the Cutting case. The USA doesn’t recognize this principle but in the case USA v Yunis, the application of this principle was clear. In this case, the US district court convicted a Lebanese citizen for hijacking a Jordanian aircraft. In that aircraft, few US nationals were there.

Fact of The Cutting Case

A US citizen named Mr. Cutting published something defamatory against a Mexican citizen named Emigdio Medina. Both of these two had been in controversy before.  Mr. Cutting published the article from Texas. Those defamatory statements triggered the Mexican people. When Mr. Cutting visited Mexico for a vacation, the Mexican police arrested him for defamatory statements. The basis of this arrest was under Section 184 of the Mexican Penal Code.

The US argued that this arrest was not lawful as the article was published from Texas, USA and not in Mexico. Even if it was published from Mexico, it wouldn’t be subjected to trial according to Roman law that is enforced in Mexico.


Two main issues were raised in this case.

  1. Whether Mr. Cutting will be liable for the defamatory statements published in Texas?
  2. Whether the Mexican court can apply its jurisdiction in the case as Mr. Cutting is not a citizen of Mexico.

Decision and Reasoning

The Mexican court released Mr. Cutting. The reason for this was the aggrieved party withdrew the case. Even though it is one of the most leading cases of the passive personality principle, this case had an inconclusive end because of the withdrawal.

Read more international articles and cases here.

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