Articles Posted in International Law

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In 2010, the widow of a Taiwanese plastics magnate and billionaire filed suit against the trusts created before her husband's death, alleging that the transfer of a large portion of her husband's assets to the trusts unlawfully denied her the full marital estate to which she was entitled. The district court ultimately granted, subject to conditions, the trusts' motion to dismiss the complaint on forum non conveniens grounds. The DC Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the district court failed to give appropriate weight to the widow's legitimate choice of forum and erred in concluding that the private interest factors weighed slightly in favor of dismissal and in overemphasizing the public interest factors in deciding to dismiss this case on forum non conveniens grounds. In this case, the trusts failed to meet its heavy burden of showing that suit in the United States was so inconvenient as to be harassing, vexing, or oppressive. The court held that, the district court's errors, considered together, constituted a clear abuse of discretion. View "Shi v. New Mighty U.S. Trust" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an American citizen, filed suit under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 (TVPA), against two foreign officials from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for alleged torture. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the foreign official immunity doctrine. The DC Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal and held that defendants were not entitled to conduct-based foreign official immunity under the common law. In this case, defendants were being sued in their individual capacities and plaintiff was not seeking compensation of state funds. The court explained that, in cases like this one, in which the plaintiff pursues an individual-capacity claim seeking relief against an official in a personal capacity, exercising jurisdiction did not enforce a rule against the foreign state. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Lewis v. Mutond" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Palestinians who mostly reside in the disputed West Bank territory, sued pro-Israeli American citizens and entities, including a former U.S. deputy national security advisor, claiming that the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to expel all non-Jews from the territory by providing financial and construction assistance to “settlements” and that the defendants knew their conduct would result in the mass killings of Palestinians. The claims cited the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350; American-citizen plaintiffs also brought claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 102-256. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that the complaint raised nonjusticiable political questions. The D.C. Circuit reversed after holding that the court correctly treated the issue as jurisdictional. The court first identified two relevant questions: Who has sovereignty over the disputed territory Are Israeli settlers committing genocide? The court then applied the Supreme Court’s “Baker" factors, concluded that the only political question concerned who has sovereignty, and held that the question is extricable because a court could rule in the plaintiffs’ favor without addressing who has sovereignty if it concluded that Israeli settlers are committing genocide. If it becomes clear at a later stage that resolving any of the claims requires a sovereignty determination, those claims can be dismissed. View "Al-Tamimi v. Adelson" on Justia Law

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Assuming the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act's immunity applies, the DC Circuit held that it leaves intact the district courts' subject-matter jurisdiction over federal criminal cases involving foreign sovereigns. The court affirmed the district court's order holding the subpoena's target, a corporation owned by a foreign sovereign, in contempt for failure to comply. In this case, the court held that there was a reasonable probability the information sought through the subpoena at issue concerned a commercial activity that caused a direct effect in the United States. The court held that the Act, even where it applies, allows courts to exercise jurisdiction over such activities and the ancillary challenges in this appeal lacked merit. View "In re: Grand Jury Subpoena" on Justia Law

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Survivors filed suit against the Republic of Hungary and Hungary's state-owned railway company, seeking compensation for the seizure and expropriation of Survivors' property as part of the Hungarian government's genocidal campaign. The DC Circuit held that the district court erred by dismissing the case on remand. The court held that the district court erred by dismissing the case on international comity grounds where the court's recent decision in Philipp v. Federal Republic of Germany, 894 F.3d 406 (D.C. Cir. 2018), squarely rejected the asserted comity-based ground for declining statutorily assigned jurisdiction. In regard to the dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds, the court held that the district court committed material legal errors at each step of its analysis. The court explained that there was far too little in this record to designate Hungary as a more convenient forum than the one chosen by the Survivors. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Simon v. Republic of Hungary" on Justia Law

Posted in: International Law

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Kaspersky, a Russian-based cybersecurity company, provides products and services to customers around the world. In 2017, based on concerns that the Russian government could exploit Kaspersky’s access to federal computers, the Secretary of Homeland Security directed federal agencies to remove the company’s products from government information systems. Congress later broadened and codified (131 Stat. 1283) that prohibition in the National Defense Authorization Act. Kaspersky sued, arguing that the prohibition constituted an impermissible legislative punishment, a bill of attainder prohibited by the Constitution, Article I, Section 9. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Kaspersky failed to adequately allege that Congress enacted a bill of attainder. The court noted the nonpunitive interest at stake: the security of the federal government’s information systems. The law is prophylactic, not punitive. While Kaspersky is not the only possible gap in the federal computer system’s defenses, Congress had ample evidence that Kaspersky posed the most urgent potential threat and Congress has “sufficient latitude to choose among competing policy alternatives.” Though costly to Kaspersky, the decision falls far short of “the historical meaning of legislative punishment.” Relying just on the legislative record, Kaspersky’s complaint fails to plausibly allege that the motivation behind the law was punitive. View "Kaspersky Lab, Inc.v. United States Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment refusing to enforce an arbitral award against the Czech Republic Ministry of Health and in favor of Diag Human, S.E., a corporation organized under the laws of the Principality of Liechtenstein. The court held that the final award was not binding on the Czech Republic where, not only the termination of the review, but also the content of the arbitration review panel's "Resolution," prevented the final award from becoming binding. Pursuant to the agreement, the parties had recourse to another arbitration panel, which was sufficient to prevent the award from becoming binding at that time. View "Diag Human S.E. v. Czech Republic - Ministry of Health" on Justia Law

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This case arose when Venezuela and two of its agencies seized all assets of an American drilling company's Venezuelan subsidiary. Both parent and subsidiary filed suit claiming that the expropriation of the subsidiary's business and assets without compensation violated international law. On remand from the Supreme Court, at issue was whether either company had alleged facts that were sufficient, if true, to establish that it had in fact suffered a taking in violation of international law. The DC Circuit held that only the American parent, not its Venezuelan subsidiary, had done so. The court held that the domestic-takings rule barred the subsidiary's expropriation claim where the subsidiary was considered a Venezuelan national under international law. In this case, the subsidiary was incorporated in Venezuela and had a legal identity distinct from that of its parent shareholders under local law. The court further held that, given the subsidiary's Venezuelan nationality, its takings claim against Venezuela was a matter of domestic, not international, law under the domestic-takings rule. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the subsidiary's claims, as well as the denial of defendants' motion to dismiss the parent's claims. View "Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Co. v. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela" on Justia Law

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Appellant, a dual citizen of the United States and Canada and incarcerated in the United States where he was convicted of a felony, sought a transfer under a treaty between the United States and Canada to a Canadian prison. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint and held that the government's self-execution argument was non-jurisdictional and thus did not affect the court's subject matter jurisdiction to consider appellant's case under 28 U.S.C. 1331; even assuming the treaty was not self-executing, the government's position that appellant must rely exclusively on the implementing legislation was flawed, because the text and legislative history of the treaty and the legislation showed that the latter incorporated the substantive standards of the former, making those standards part of domestic law; the treaty provision on which appellant relied provides law to apply, although the scope of judicial review was narrow, limited to the terms of that provision and not reaching the correctness of the assessment or the outcome; and consistent with the narrow scope of judicial review, the denial of appellant's transfer was not arbitrary and capricious. View "Sluss v. DOJ" on Justia Law

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After the IRS refused to grant the foreign shipping corporation Good Fortune an exemption to some of its U.S.-based income from taxation, the tax court ruled in favor of the IRS. The DC Circuit reversed, holding that the IRS's interpretation of Internal Revenue Code 883 in the 2003 Regulation was unreasonable and could not stand. Even if the IRS reasonably concluded that sometimes—maybe oftentimes—bearer shares were incapable of proving the residence of their owners, the court held that the 2003 Regulation's categorical bar on considering bearer shares did not follow from that premise. The court explained that the IRS has not justified treating all bearer shares as incapable of proving ownership; and if some corporations' bearer shares were not kept in record form, and thus were not capable of proving the location of an owner, then the IRS should have identified those corporations' shares and tailored its rule accordingly. View "Good Fortune Shipping SA v. Commissioner" on Justia Law