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

Articles Posted in International Law
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Broidy, an activist businessman, urged the government to oppose Qatar’s alleged funding and harboring of terrorists and to support the efforts of Qatar’s neighbors to isolate it economically. Broidy alleges that Qatar engaged in “a multi-million dollar dark money effort to recruit lobbyists and influencers to polish Qatar’s public image.” Qatar allegedly paid the defendants, U.S.-citizen public relations contractors, millions in hopes of rehabilitating its image with “the Republican, American Jewish community and other conservative supporters of Israel.” They allegedly retained a cybersecurity firm “to coordinate an offensive cyber and information operation against” Broidy and his company.Broidy sued, alleging violations of RICO, Stored Communications Act, Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Defend Trade Secrets Act, and California law. Without acknowledging involvement in the alleged scheme, the defendants claimed immunity based on Broidy’s allegations regarding their relationship to Qatar, a foreign sovereign. The court dismissed certain claims as legally inadequate and rejected the immunity defense.The D.C. Circuit affirmed. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act by its terms does not apply. Qatar has not said that the challenged conduct was at its behest nor has it urged the United States to recognize the defendants’ immunity. The State Department has never suggested that the defendants are immune as agents of Qatar. Without any such acknowledgment or suggestion, a private party claiming foreign sovereign immunity bears a heavy burden. The defendants here are U.S. citizens sued in their private capacities by U.S. plaintiffs for violations of U.S. and California law within the U.S. View "Broidy Capital Management LLC v. Muzin" on Justia Law

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Radmanesh, a U.S. citizen born in 1969, lived in Iran, 1978-1986. In 1979, armed members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, a military arm of the Iranian government, stormed into the family home and accused Radmanesh’s father of treason. The family was threatened with execution unless the father trained Iranians as engineers. Radmanesh was forced to attend an Iranian-run school, where his classmates physically abused him while chanting “Death to Americans.” Members of a youth paramilitary organization beat Radmanesh. One beating sent Radmanesh to the hospital with broken ribs, lacerations, and a concussion. In 1986, Radmanesh was conscripted to fight in the Iran-Iraq War. Radmanesh’s commander told him that he was being sent to die as a martyr for Islam and forced Radmanesh at gunpoint to shoot and kill a sleeping Iraqi soldier. Radmanesh was diagnosed with PTSD and, while on leave, escaped to the United States.Radmanesh sued Iran and the IRGC, alleging hostage-taking, torture, assault, battery, false imprisonment, and intentional infliction of emotional distress. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint against Iran, finding that Radmanesh failed to establish that this case falls within the terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1604. What Radmanesh endured during the Iran-Iraq War was no different from the hardships that soldiers routinely suffer during wartime. The events that occurred before the war were not severe enough to amount to torture. View "Radmanesh v. Islamic Republic of Iran" on Justia Law

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On May 16, 2017, Turkish security forces clashed with protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s Washington, D.C. residence. Injured protesters sued the Republic of Turkey, claiming that President Erdogan ordered the attack. They asserted various tort claims, violation of D.C. Code 22-3704, which creates a civil action for injuries that demonstrate an accused’s prejudice based on the victim’s race or national origin, and civil claims under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act and under the Alien Tort Statute.After reviewing the videotape of the incident, the district court stated: [T]he protesters remained standing on the designated sidewalk. Turkish security forces ... crossed a police line to attack the protesters. The protesters ... either fell to the ground, where Turkish security forces continued to kick and hit them or ran away."The D.C. Circuit affirmed the denial of Turkey's motion to dismiss. Under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1602, a foreign state is “presumptively immune" from the jurisdiction of U.S. courts but a “tortious acts exception,” strips immunity if money damages are sought for personal injury or death, or damage to property, occurring in the U.S. and caused by the tortious act of a foreign state. The court rejected Turkey's argument that the “discretionary function” exception preserved its sovereign immunity. Although the Turkish security detail had a right to protect President Erdogan, Turkey did not have the discretion to commit criminal assaults. The decisions giving rise to the lawsuit were not “‘fraught with’ economic, political, or social judgments.” View "Usoyan v. Republic of Turkey" on Justia Law

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In 1994, Farrell, a U.S. citizen, moved to Switzerland. He married a Swiss citizen; they had a child. In 2004, he naturalized as a Swiss citizen, allegedly with the intent of relinquishing his U.S. nationality; 8 U.S.C. 1481(a)(1) refers to “voluntarily … with the intention of relinquishing United States nationality … obtaining naturalization in a foreign state.” He subsequently made no use of his U.S. citizenship and did not enter the U.S. In 2013, Farrell was arrested in Spain and extradited to the U.S. He pled guilty to interstate travel with intent to engage in sex with a minor and possession of child pornography, which he committed 10 years earlier in the U.S., and was sentenced to imprisonment in the U.S.Farrell corresponded with the State Department, requesting a certificate of loss of nationality (CLN). He was told he would have to sign forms in person in front of a consular officer. Farrell argued that he had already committed the expatriating act when he naturalized in Switzerland and was now attesting that he did so voluntarily with the intent to lose his nationality. The Embassy responded that Farrell could not lose his citizenship while he was imprisoned in the U.S. Farrell sued, claiming that the in-person requirement was contrary to statute and arbitrary. The D.C. Circuit reversed the district court. While the Department has statutory authority to impose an in-person requirement, it acted arbitrarily in denying Farrell a CLN by offering conflicting and ever-evolving reasons for denying the CLN. View "Farrell v. Blinken" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs are residents of Gujarat, India, an Indian governmental entity, and a nonprofit focused on fish workers' rights. IFC is an international organization of 185 member countries. The plaintiffs allege that they have been injured by operations of India's coal-fired Tata Mundra Power Plant, owned and operated by CGPL. IFC loaned funds for the project and conditioned disbursement of those funds on CGPL’s compliance with certain environmental standards. The plaintiffs allege that IFC negligently failed to ensure that the Plant’s design and operation complied with these environmental standards but nonetheless disbursed funds to CGPL. These supervisory omissions and disbursement decisions allegedly took place at IFC’s Washington, D.C. headquarters.On remand from the Supreme Court, which held that organizations such as IFC possess more limited immunity equivalent to that enjoyed by foreign governments, the district court again ruled that IFC was immune from the claims. The D.C. Circuit affirmed. United States courts lack subject-matter jurisdiction. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act provides that foreign states are immune from the jurisdiction of United States’ courts, 28 U.S.C. 1604; the commercial activity exception does not apply because the gravamen of the complaint is injurious activities that occurred in India. View "Jam v. International Finance Corp." on Justia Law

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Khochinsky, a Russian national living in the U.S., contacted the Republic of Poland seeking restitution for the loss of his family’s land during the Nazi invasion. In exchange, Khochinsky offered a painting in his possession that he believed resembled one reported missing by Poland. Poland did not respond to the offer but unsuccessfully sought Khochinsky’s extradition from the U.S. on the ground that he was knowingly in possession of a stolen painting. Khochinsky spent a week in jail, followed by home monitoring before the government determined that there was no evidence that the painting had been stolen. He then sued Poland, alleging that the effort to extradite him was tortious and infringed his rights.The D.C. Circuit affirmed the suit's dismissal. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1602, which affords the exclusive basis for a U.S. court to obtain jurisdiction over claims against a foreign state, gives Poland immunity from Khochinsky’s action. Poland did not implicitly waive its sovereign immunity by seeking Khochinsky’s extradition. Khochinsky’s claims for quiet-title related to the painting and for aiding-and-abetting-trespass related to his family land do not fall within the FSIA’s counterclaim exception. His claims for First Amendment retaliation and for tortious interference with business relations do not fall within the FSIA’s noncommercial tort exception. View "Khochinsky v. Republic of Poland" on Justia Law

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Appellants challenge the district court's dismissal of their claims against Ukraine for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). Appellants' claims stemmed from Ukraine's "total destruction" of their property for the construction of a road and railway bridge project.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of Ukraine based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that the district court correctly determined that appellants' lawsuit does not fall within the FSIA's expropriation exception. With respect to Appellants Luxexpress–II and the Ivanenkos, their claims are barred by the domestic takings rule. The court explained that, although the domestic takings rule does not apply to Alamo Group, it failed to show that its property is "owned or operated" by an instrumentality of Ukraine. In this case, even assuming arguendo, that the Ukraine South–Western Railway occupies the land that Luxexpress–II had leased, there are no allegations that it "owned or operated" Alamo Group's property. The court also concluded that appellants cannot satisfy the FSIA's commercial activity exception where the allegations describe conduct that is quintessentially sovereign and which could not have been carried out by a private participant in the marketplace. Therefore, Ukraine's alleged conduct was not in connection with commercial activity. Finally, the court concluded that Ukraine did not waive its sovereign immunity and rejected appellants' claims to the contrary. View "Ivanenko v. Yanukovich" on Justia Law

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Baan Rao Thai Restaurant and plaintiffs seek review of a consular officer's decision to deny visas for plaintiffs, asserting their claims fall within one of the consular nonreviewability doctrine's narrow exceptions.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint on the merits, rejecting plaintiffs' contention that the Treaty of Amity and Economic Relations between the United States and Thailand expressly provides that judicial review is available. The court concluded that access provisions were longstanding and well understood at the time the U.S.-Thailand Treaty was entered into—and that understanding was that the provisions relate to procedural rights. In this case, plaintiffs' argument seeks to fashion a longstanding, common and well understood treaty provision into something it is not. The court also explained, as recently clarified by the United States Supreme Court, that a dismissal pursuant to the consular nonreviewability doctrine is a dismissal on the merits. View "Baan Rao Thai Restaurant v. Pompeo" on Justia Law

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Erwin-Simpson, a D.C. resident, alleges that she suffered injuries in 2016 on a flight from Malaysia to Cambodia with Malaysia-based AirAsia when a flight attendant spilled boiling water on her. She sued under the Montreal Convention, a treaty to which the U.S. is a signatory that provides for airline liability in the case of injuries that occur during flight. AirAsia is a low-cost airline that provides service across Asia; it does not operate any flights to or from the U.S.The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit for lack of jurisdiction. The injuries Erwin-Simpson alleged did not arise from any activity by AirAsia in the District of Columbia, and the only presence that the airline identifies here is its website. The website on its own is insufficient to render the corporation subject to suit in the District. View "Erwin-Simpson v. AirAsia Berhad" on Justia Law

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In this appeal arising from a long-running dispute between the Republic of Moldova and a Ukrainian energy provider called Energoalliance, a company called Stileks—which owns the right to Energoalliance's arbitration award—seeks to recover the arbitration award. Principally at issue is whether the district court correctly confirmed the arbitration award which, with interest, now exceeds $58 million.The DC Circuit upheld the confirmation of the award. The court rejected Moldova's claims that the district court lacked jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, and that, even if the district court had jurisdiction, it was error to confirm the arbitral award during the pendency of certain foreign proceedings. The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in awarding prejudgment interest to appropriately compensate Stileks for the time value of money. However, the court remanded for the district court to consider whether Moldova had a settled expectation that an adverse judgment would be denominated in Moldovan lei rather than U.S. dollars. View "LLC SPC Stileks v. Republic of Moldova" on Justia Law