Justia U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in International Law

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This appeal stems from the United States' attempt to extradite Nizar Trabelsi from Belgium based on a grand jury indictment for various conspiracy and terrorism offenses. The district court denied Trabelsi's motion to dismiss the indictment. The court explained that its review is limited and requires deference to Belgium's decision to extradite Trabelsi. The court concluded that this deference creates a rebuttable presumption that Trabelsi’s extradition, and Belgium’s analysis in deciding to extradite him, comports with the terms of the Treaty Between the United States of America and the Kingdom of Belgium, Apr. 27, 1987, S. TREATY DOC. NO. 104-7. The court concluded that, although Trabelsi is correct that a Blockburger v. United States analysis is not required under the terms of the Treaty, his argument that the Treaty requires a conduct-oriented test is not supported by the text of the Treaty, which refers to “offenses.” Therefore, the court need not reach defendant's remaining arguments and affirmed the district court's order. View "United States v. Trabelsi" on Justia Law

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After ENPH filed under a power purchase agreement (PPA) for arbitration by the ICC, the ICC issued an award in ENPH's favor. Nigeria now appeals from the order granting enforcement of the Award. The court rejected Nigeria's contention that enforcement of the Award violates the public policy of the United States not to reward a party for fraudulent and criminal conduct pursuant to Article V(2)(b) of The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (known as the “New York Convention”), 21 U.S.T. 2517. The court rejected Nigeria's contention, concluding that the ICC’s findings, to which an enforcing court owes substantial deference, doom Nigeria’s public policy defense in the absence of evidence or equities warranting the piercing of Enron’s corporate veil. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Enron Nigeria Power Holding, Ltd. v. Federal Republic of Nigeria" on Justia Law

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Gilmore, a U.S. national working as a private security guard, was killed in a shooting attack in Jerusalem on October 30, 2000. His estate sued the Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under the Anti-Terrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. 2333, and related common law theories. After years of litigation, the district court granted the defendants summary judgment. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the judgment, the vacatur of defendants’ defaults, and the denial of the estate’s motion to compel the production of intelligence materials, following in camera review. The court stated that there was no admissible evidence linking any particular individual to the killing and, therefore, no link to the defendants, and noted the “extraordinary circumstances” implicated by the motion to compel. View "Gilmore v. Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority" on Justia Law
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In 42 U.S.C. 433, Congress authorized the President to enter into social security coordination agreements - known as totalization agreements - with other countries. This case involves a totalization agreement between the United States and France. At issue is whether or not two French taxes enacted into law after that totalization agreement was adopted amend or supplement the French social security laws covered by the agreement, and thus fall within the agreement’s ambit. The court concluded that the trial court committed legal error in declaring the status of those French laws not by analyzing the text of the totalization agreement or the understanding of the parties, but by resorting to American dictionaries. The court reversed and remanded because insufficient consideration was given to the text and the official views of the United States and French governments. View "Eshel v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are victims of terrorist attacks and their family members who hold substantial unsatisfied money judgments against defendants Iran, North Korea, and Syria. The money judgments arise out of claims brought under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1605. In order to satisfy the judgments, plaintiffs seek to attach Internet data managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and, accordingly, served writs of attachment on ICANN. The district court quashed the writs because it found that the data was unattachable under D.C. law. The court rejected ICANN’s challenge to the district court’s subject matter jurisdiction, and assumed without deciding that local law applies to the determination of the “attachability” of the defendant sovereigns’ country-code top level domain names (ccTLDs), and without so holding that local law does not operate to bar attachment of the defendant sovereigns’ ccTLDs. The court concluded that those plaintiffs seeking to attach the underlying judgments in Haim I, Weinstein and Stern have forfeited their claims in toto. Those plaintiffs seeking to attach the underlying judgments in Haim II, Rubin, Wyatt and Calderon-Cardona have forfeited all but their claim grounded in the terrorist activity exception to attachment immunity. Finally, because of the enormous third-party interests at stake - and because there is no way to execute on plaintiffs’ judgments without impairing those interests - the court cannot permit attachment. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Weinstein v. Islamic Republic of Iran" on Justia Law

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Diag Human appealed the district court's dismissal, sua sponte, of its claim for enforcement of a foreign arbitral award for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court found for Diag Human on both of the contested Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(6), issues here: Diag Human and the Czech Republic shared a legal relationship, and their arbitration “may” be governed by the New York Convention. Therefore, the Czech Republic is not entitled to sovereign immunity in this matter under the FSIA’s arbitration exception. Here, Diag Human’s relationship with the Czech Republic qualifies as a commercial legal relationship, and the arbitration at issue here arises out of that commercial legal relationship. Because a legal basis exists for federal courts to enforce this arbitration award, the court concluded that subject matter jurisdiction exists. Whether the arbitration award is final will be a question going to the merits of the case, as it could determine whether the arbitration award can be enforced or not. The court expresses no view on the matter. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Diag Human S.E. v. Czech Republic - Ministry of Health" on Justia Law

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GSS appealed the district court’s dismissal of its second attempt to confirm a $44 million arbitral award entered against the Port Authority for breach of a construction contract. GSS first tried to confirm the award, but the district court found that it had no personal jurisdiction over the Port Authority. Then GSS filed its second petition, also naming the Republic of Liberia, which owns the Port Authority, as respondents. The district court again dismissed GSS’s petition, finding that issue preclusion barred relitigating its personal jurisdiction over the Port Authority and that GSS failed to demonstrate that Liberia was liable for the Port Authority’s alleged breach. The court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the claims against Liberia for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1330 et seq.; affirmed the district court's dismissal of GSS's petition against the Port Authority on sovereign immunities grounds; and concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion by dismissing GSS's petition before allowing jurisdictional discovery. View "GSS Group Ltd. v. Republic of Liberia" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, fourteen Jewish survivors of the Hungarian Holocaust, filed suit against the Republic of Hungary and the Hungarian state-owned railway arising from defendants’ participation in - and perpetration of - the Holocaust. The district court dismissed the suit, concluding that the 1947 Peace Treaty between the Allied Powers and Hungary set forth an exclusive mechanism for Hungarian Holocaust victims to obtain recovery for their property losses, and that permitting plaintiffs’ lawsuit to proceed under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1603 et seq., would conflict with the peace treaty’s terms. The court held that the peace treaty poses no bar to plaintiffs’ lawsuit, and the FSIA's treaty exception does not preclude this action. The court concluded, however, that the FSIA’s expropriation exception affords plaintiffs a pathway to pursue certain of their claims: those involving the taking of plaintiffs’ property in the commission of genocide against Hungarian Jews. Because those expropriations themselves amount to genocide, they qualify as takings of property “in violation of international law” within the meaning of the FSIA’s expropriation exception. Finally, plaintiffs’ claims do not constitute nonjusticiable political questions falling outside of the Judiciary’s cognizance. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Simon v. Republic of Hungary" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose from a dispute between Ecuador and Chevron involving a series of lawsuits related to an investment and development agreement. On appeal, Ecuador challenged the district court's confirmation of an international arbitral award to Chevron. In this case, the Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) includes a standing offer to all potential U.S. investors to arbitrate investment disputes, which Chevron accepted in the manner required by the treaty. Therefore, the court concluded that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1604, allows federal courts to exercise jurisdiction over Ecuador in order to consider an action to confirm or enforce the award. The dispute over whether the lawsuits were “investments” for purposes of the treaty is properly considered as part of review under the Convention on the Recognition of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention), 9 U.S.C. 201-208. The court further concluded that, even if it were to conclude that the FSIA required a de novo determination of arbitrability, the court still would find that the district court had jurisdiction where Ecuador failed to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that Chevron's suits were not "investments" within the meaning of the BIT. Likewise, the court rejected Ecuador's arguments against confirmation of the award under the New York Convention as meritless. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Chevron Corp. v. The Republic of Ecuador" on Justia Law

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BSDL petitioned the district court to confirm an arbitration award rendered against the government of Belize. The district court entered judgment in favor of BSDL. The arbitration award arises out of the alleged breach by Belize of a 2005 agreement between Belize and Belize Telemedia Limited, BSDL’s predecessor in interest. The court concluded that the language of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(6), arbitration exception makes clear that the agreement to arbitrate is severable from the underlying contract. In order to succeed in its claim that there was no “agreement made by the foreign state . . . to submit to arbitration,” Belize must show that the Prime Minister lacked authority to enter into the arbitration agreement. Belize has failed to do this and therefore, Belize failed to carry its burden of establishing that BSDL’s allegations do not bring this case within the FSIA’s arbitration exception. The court rejected Belize's remaining arguments and affirmed the judgment. View "Belize Social Dev. Ltd. v. Government of Belize" on Justia Law