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

Articles Posted in International Law
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Plaintiffs, a group of Cuban physicians, filed suit against PAHO for its role in facilitating Brazil's Mais Médicos program, under which Brazil hired foreign physicians to augment its medical services provided to impoverished Brazilians. Plaintiffs alleged that PAHO acted as a financial intermediary between Brazil and Cuba. PAHO moved to dismiss the suit, asserting immunity under both the International Organizations Immunities Act (IOIA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) Constitution.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of PAHO's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' claim that PAHO acted as a financial intermediary, concluding PAHO was not entitled to immunity under the IOIA because plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that PAHO's conduct of moving money for a fee constituted commercial activity carried on in the United States. The court also agreed with the district court that the WHO Constitution did not render PAHO immune where the provision at issue, Article 67(a), is not self-executing because Article 68 of the WHO Constitution provides that the privileges and immunities shall be defined in a separate agreement. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Matos Rodriguez v. Pan American Health Organization" on Justia Law

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Eight years after Belgium extradited defendant, a Tunisian national, to stand trial in the United States on terrorism charges, the trial has yet to take place. In this appeal, defendant challenged the district court's denial of his motions to reconsider dismissing the indictment in light of intervening, and conflicting, Belgian legal developments.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that the Belgian legal developments defendant invokes do not constitute significant new evidence that would warrant disturbing this court's 2017 decision affirming the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss the indictment. The court stated that defendant has selectively picked and chosen phrases from these documents to argue that this court must defer to the Belgian courts' interpretation of Article 5 and revisit its decision in Trabelsi II. However, the court concluded that none of the intervening decisions, communications, or pleadings present significant new evidence or detract from the deference this court owes to the Belgian state. Therefore, defendant has failed to meet the significantly high burden for departing from the law of the case. View "United States v. Trabelsi" on Justia Law

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After P&ID petitioned for confirmation of an arbitral award against Nigeria, Nigeria moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and asserted sovereign immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The district court denied the motion on the ground that Nigeria impliedly waived sovereign immunity by joining The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention).Following its determination that it has appellate jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine, the DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Nigeria's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction on different grounds, concluding that a foreign court's order ostensibly setting aside an arbitral award has no bearing on the district court's jurisdiction and is instead an affirmative defense properly suited for consideration at the merits stage. In this case, because the requirements of the arbitration exception under 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(6) are satisfied, Nigeria’s sovereign immunity has been abrogated. View "Process and Industrial Developments Limited v. Federal Republic of Nigeria" on Justia Law

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In 1944, German troops entered Hungary. The Hungarian government and Nazi collaborators confiscated the Herzog Collection, “one of Europe’s great private collections of art, and the largest in Hungary.” Some pieces were transported to Germany, others were taken by the Hungarian government. The Herzogs fled Hungary and later attempted to reclaim the Collection, including through the Hungarian courts. In the U.S., they sued Hungary and three art museums, arguing that failure to return the artworks breached bailment contracts and constituted conversion and unjust enrichment.In 2013, the D.C. Circuit held the suit was not barred by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1604–05, and found that jurisdiction was not inconsistent with international agreements. After discovery, the D.C. Circuit affirmed that the action could proceed under FSIA’s expropriation exception; remanded for consideration whether that exception applies to 19 artworks that were temporarily returned to the Herzogs; ordered the dismissal of Hungary (citing FSIA); and ordered that the Herzogs be allowed to amend their complaint under the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act of 2016. The district court complied and added a new defendant, Hungarian National Asset Management (MNV).The D.C. Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that MNV is shielded by Hungary’s sovereign immunity, that the district court violated the remand mandate by allowing the addition of MNV, that failure to join an indispensable party precluded action against the remaining defendants, and that the principle of prudential exhaustion required dismissal. View "De Csepel v. Republic of Hungary" on Justia Law

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Sacks is a law firm with a 20-year history of working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In 2011, IMF hired Sacks to negotiate disputed claims of various contractors that worked on the renovation of its headquarters. The parties’ contract asserts IMF’s immunity from suit and provides that any disputes not settled by mutual agreement shall be resolved by arbitration. In a subsequent fee dispute between Sacks and IMF, Sacks filed a demand for arbitration with the AAA. The arbitration panel awarded Sacks $39,918.82 plus interest but denied Sacks’ claim of underpayment in connection with earlier work.Sacks sued the Fund, claiming that the award should be vacated pursuant to the D.C. Code as “the result of misconduct by the arbitrators.” IMF removed the case to federal court and moved to dismiss it on immunity grounds pursuant to its Articles of Agreement, given effect in the U.S. by the Bretton Woods Act, 22 U.S.C. 286h. Sacks asserted the contract waived immunity by expressly providing for arbitration pursuant to the AAA Rules, which contemplate courts’ entry of judgment on arbitral awards. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The AAA Rules and D.C. law contemplate judicial involvement in the enforcement of arbitral awards, so arguably the contract also does so but an international organization's waiver of the immunity must be explicit. The parties' contract expressly retains the IMF’s immunity, reiterating it even within the arbitration clause. View "Leonard A. Sacks & Associates P.C. v. International Monetary Fund" on Justia Law

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Wye sued Iraq. The district court denied Iraq’s motion to dismiss on sovereign immunity grounds and entered judgment in Wye’s favor years later. An intervening Fourth Circuit ruling rejected Iraq’s contention that none of the exceptions in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1602, applied to Wye’s breach of contract claims; because Wye alleged that it had engaged in acts inside the U.S. under the contract, the lawsuit could proceed under the second clause of the FSIA’s commercial activities exception, which abrogates foreign sovereign immunity with respect to claims that are “based upon . . . an act performed in the United States in connection with commercial activity of the foreign state elsewhere.”The D.C. Circuit vacated. Iraq’s participation in the trial did not implicitly waive its sovereign immunity. The law of the case doctrine does not require adherence to the Fourth Circuit’s conclusions. The D.C. Circuit concluded that section 1605(a)(2) does not apply to this case. A plausible basis for sustaining the district court’s jurisdictional ruling can be found in the commercial activity exception’s third clause, abrogating immunity if the action is “based upon . . . an act outside the territory of the United States in connection with a commercial activity of the foreign state elsewhere and that act causes a direct effect in the United States.” The district court is best positioned to determine whether Iraq’s breach of contract caused “direct effects” in the U.S. View "Wye Oak Technology, Inc. v. Republic of Iraq" on Justia Law

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Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Europe sought compensation for the expropriation of its interests in a company in Venezuela. The district court granted Saint-Gobain summary judgment after determining it had properly served the Republic of Venezuela with court process pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Service Abroad of Judicial and Extrajudicial Documents in Civil or Commercial Matters.The D.C. Circuit reversed. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1608, identifies four methods for serving a foreign state. The method at issue is “by delivery of a copy of the summons and complaint in accordance with an applicable international convention on service of judicial documents”; the Hague Convention is such an international agreement. Articles 2-6 of the Hague Convention require that a plaintiff request service from a Central Authority designated by the receiving state and receive a certificate of service from the Central Authority stating it has served the defendant by a method consistent with the state’s internal law. Venezuelan law requires lawsuits against the Republic to be served on the Attorney General, and the Attorney General was never served. View "Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Europe v. Bolivarian Rep. of Venezuela" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, victims of Jaysh al-Mahdi terrorist attacks and the victims' family members, filed suit alleging that defendants, large medical supply and manufacturing companies, knowingly gave substantial support to the attacks against them in violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), as amended by the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), and state law. Plaintiffs claim that defendants, aware of Jaysh al-Mahdi's command of the Ministry, secured lucrative medical-supply contracts with the Ministry by giving corrupt payments and valuable gifts to Jaysh al-Mahdi. The district court held that the complaint failed to state claims for either direct or secondary (aiding-and-abetting) liability under the ATA, and that it lacked personal jurisdiction over six foreign defendants.The DC Circuit reversed on three issues and remanded the balance of the issues to be addressed by the district court consistent with the court's opinion. First, the court concluded that plaintiffs plead facts that suffice to support their aiding-and-abetting claim at the motion-to-dismiss stage. Second, with respect to the direct liability claim, the court concluded that plaintiffs have adequately pleaded that defendants' payments to Jaysh al Mahdi proximately caused plaintiffs' injuries. Third, the court concluded that the district court's personal jurisdiction analysis was unduly restrictive. View "Atchley v. AstraZeneca UK Limited" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Tatneft's petition to confirm and enforce its arbitral award against Ukraine. The court agreed with the district court's decision rejecting Ukraine's arguments that the court should have declined to enforce the award under The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention), and should have dismissed the petition on the basis of forum non conveniens. In this case, the enforcement of the arbitral award should not have been denied under the New York Convention arti. (V)(1)(C) where the district court neither exceeded its discretion nor made legal error when it denied Ukraine's motion for supplemental briefing, made years after the parties had initially briefed the merits; Ukraine can pay the $173 million judgment without risking a collapse; the district court did not exceed its authority under the New York Convention; and the court rejected Ukraine's contention that the district court mistakenly enforced the award in spite of the public policy and improper composition exceptions. Furthermore, the court has squarely held that forum non conveniens is not available in proceedings to confirm a foreign arbitral award because only U.S. courts can attach foreign commercial assets found within the United States. View "Tatneft v. Ukraine" on Justia Law

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Twentieth Century geopolitical events — World War I, the Bolshevik Revolution, the Russian Civil War, and World War II — forced leaders of Chabad Chasidism, a religious movement, to flee Russia, first to Latvia, then to Poland, and ultimately to the United States. In 1940, Chabad of the United States was incorporated under New York law and began attempting to recover 17th Century religious materials taken from its religious community.In 2004, Chabad sued Russia. In 2006, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered a partial judgment for Russia, which eventually withdrew from the case. The district court entered a default judgment against Russia in 2010, ordering it to return the materials. When Russia failed to comply, Chabad served subpoenas seeking to identify assets that could be attached for the fines imposed by the district court. Both appellants moved to quash the subpoenas. Neither, however, appealed the district court denials of their motions. Each then attempted to appeal the district court denials of their efforts to present immunity defenses. The D.C. Circuit dismissed the appeals for lack of jurisdiction. The court denied mandamus review because there was an alternative avenue for review (the collateral order appeal that was filed too late). View "Agudas Chasidei Chabad of United States v. Russian Federation" on Justia Law