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

Articles Posted in International Law
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The district court denied a habeas petition by Al Hela, a Yemeni sheik, challenging his detention at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay. Al Hela claims that the President lacked authority to detain him under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, 115 Stat. 224, for substantially supporting Al Qaeda and its associated forces; that he is entitled to release for due process violations; and that the discovery procedures failed to provide him with a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge his detention. The District Court for the District of Columbia has a standing case management order used in many Guantanamo habeas cases to manage discovery and to protect classified information from unwarranted disclosure. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, finding that the President has authority to detain Al Hela, who “substantially supported” enemy forces irrespective of whether he also directly supported those forces or participated in hostilities. Al Hela’s supportive conduct was not “vitiated by the passage of time.” The proceedings below complied with the requirements of the Suspension Clause, which provides that “[t]he Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” Guantanamo detainees are entitled to a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge the basis for their detention, not a perfect one. The Due Process Clause may not be invoked by aliens without property or presence in the sovereign territory of the United States. View "Al-Hela v. Trump" on Justia Law

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TIG filed an emergency motion for attachment-related relief and a writ of execution, seeking to satisfy a long-pending judgment by attaching a building that the Republic of Argentina listed for sale in the District of Columbia. After Argentina removed the property from the market, the district court concluded that the property was immune from execution because Argentina's removal meant that the property would not be "used for a commercial activity" at the time the writ would issue.The DC Circuit held that whether a property is "used for a commercial activity" depends on the totality of the circumstances existing when the motion for a writ of attachment is filed, not when the writ would issue. Therefore, the district court applied the incorrect legal standard in this case. The court vacated the district court's judgment and remanded for the district court to determine whether, at the time of filing, the totality of the circumstances supported characterizing the property at issue as one "used for a commercial activity" and, if so, whether any of Argentina's other defenses bar attachment of its property. View "TIG Insurance Co. v. Republic of Argentina" on Justia Law

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Members of the Valambhia family filed an action to recognize the High Court of Tanzania's judgments in the District of Columbia. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of Tanzania's motion to dismiss the amended complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under the commercial activity exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA).The court held that the Valambhias have not explained how even a loose construction of the third clause of the FSIA commercial activity exception could support the conclusion that Tanzania's previous and optional use of a New York bank account constitutes a direct effect or an immediate consequence in the United States of Tanzania's conduct abroad. Furthermore, the Valambhias' claim of a direct effect stemming from the family's citizenship and residence in the United States is insufficient. The court dismissed the remaining claims and affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Valambhia v. United Republic of Tanzania" on Justia Law

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The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) does not permit courts to contemplate how much merits litigation is too much. Instead, they must resolve colorable assertions of immunity before the foreign sovereign may be required to address the merits at all.The DC Circuit held that it has jurisdiction to review the district court's order under the collateral order doctrine, because the district court conclusively rejected Nigeria's assertion of immunity from having to defend the merits in this case. The court held that Nigeria's immunity defense is at least colorable enough to support appellate jurisdiction, and thus the court need not determine whether Nigeria will ultimately prevail on that defense. The court also held that the district court erred in requiring Nigeria to defend the merits before resolving its colorable immunity assertion. Therefore, the court denied P&ID's motion to dismiss the appeal. The court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Process and Industrial Developments Ltd. v. Federal Republic of Nigeria" on Justia Law

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After DSCI filed suit against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom removed the case to federal district court and filed a motion to dismiss the complaint on the grounds of forum non conveniens, pointing to the forum-selection clause in the parties' contract. In this case, the contract provided that the Board of Grievances, a Saudi Arabian administrative court, shall be the assigned settlement of any disputes arising out of the contract. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of the Kingdom's motion, holding that the contract's forum-selection clause is mandatory and the dispute thus belonged before the Board of Grievances. View "D&S Consulting, Inc. v. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of the unexplained disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 somewhere over the Southern Indian Ocean in the early hours of March 8, 2014. Representatives of many of the passengers filed suit in United States, alleging claims under the Montreal Convention against Malaysia's national airline at the time of the flight, its current national airline, and the airliners' insurers, as well as claims against Boeing, which manufactured the aircraft in Washington state. After the lawsuits were centralized into a multidistrict litigation in the district court, the district court granted appellees' motion to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds.The DC Circuit held that the district court did not clearly abuse its discretion in dismissing the lawsuits for forum non conveniens. In this case, the district court carefully weighed the relevant public and private interest factors and reasonably concluded that Malaysia is a more convenient forum to try the claims. View "Smith v. Malaysia Airlines Berhad" on Justia Law

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In this first case arising under the Hague Convention that has reached the DC Circuit, petitioner claimed that his wife, respondent, wrongfully retained their five-year-old daughter in the United States.The court held that the district court did not err in finding that respondent retained the child in May 2019 and that the child's habitual residence was France. The court held that respondent's arguments regarding the date of retention and the child's habitual residence lacked merit. Furthermore, because the parties chose the Mozes framework, and respondent has not challenged the district court's findings under the remaining questions or asserted any defenses, the court affirmed the district court's grant of petitioner's petition for return. View "Abou-Haidar v. Sanin Vazquez" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit held that the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today Act (PROTECT Act) was constitutional as applied to defendant, who was indicted for producing child pornography and sexually abusing a child while residing in Vietnam in 2015. The court reversed the district court's dismissal of the indictment and held that each of the provisions of the Act that defendant challenged was rationally related to implementing the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography.The court held that the provisions of the PROTECT Act that criminalize child sexual abuse and production of child pornography by U.S. citizens living abroad help to fulfill the United States' responsibility under the Optional Protocol to criminalize, "as a minimum," child prostitution and child pornography production by U.S. nationals wherever that conduct occurs. Furthermore, the Foreign Commerce Clause supports application of U.S. law to economic activity abroad that could otherwise impair the effectiveness of a comprehensive regulatory regime to eliminate the sexual exploitation of children. View "United States v. Park" on Justia Law

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The United States government thought that three banks, headquartered in China, held records that might clarify how North Korea finances its nuclear weapons program. After the government subpoenaed those records, the Banks resisted and claimed that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction, that the Patriot Act subpoena exceeded the government's statutory authority, and that compelling production would run afoul of comity principles. The district court overruled the Banks' objections and subsequently held the Banks in civil contempt for failing to produce the requested records.The DC Circuit affirmed the contempt orders, holding that the Banks' jurisdictional challenges were meritless where Banks One and Two consented to jurisdiction when they opened branches in the United States and, although Bank Three has no U.S. branch and executed no such agreement, its choice to maintain correspondent accounts in the United States established an adequate connection to the forum and the enforcement action to sustain jurisdiction.The court also held that records "related to" a U.S. correspondent account, under 31 U.SC. 5318(k)(3)(A)(i), include records of transactions that do not themselves pass through a correspondent account when those transactions are in service of an enterprise entirely dedicated to obtaining access to U.S. currency and markets using a U.S. correspondent account. In this case, Bank Three's subpoena under the Patriot Act did not exceed the Attorney General's statutory authority, because all records pertaining to the Company's Bank Three account and its correspondent banking transactions, no matter where they occurred, are "related to" the Bank's U.S. correspondent accounts.In regard to the Banks' comity concerns, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by enforcing the subpoenas despite the fact that the United States chose not to pursue the process designated in the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement (MLAA) between the United States and China. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by issuing the civil contempt orders in light of the circumstances. View "In re: Sealed Case" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an international businessman who resides in Missouri, filed this suit against defendant, the investment and wealth fund of one of the United Arab Emirates, Ras Al Khaimah (RAK), alleging that defendant violated the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and committed the common law torts of conversion and unfair competition when it hacked plaintiff's computers. Plaintiff and defendants previously entered into a broad settlement agreement where they agreed to litigate all future, related claims in England.The DC Circuit held that the forum selection clause was mandatory and applied to plaintiff's claims, and the parties did not dispute that the clause was valid and enforceable. The court also held that the public interest factors that plaintiff raised to support his claim that transferring the case to England was unwarranted, did not defeat the forum selection clause. The court explained that the public did not have an interest in keeping U.S.-based disputes that turn on U.S. law in our courts. In this case, the Settlement Agreement provides that English Law will govern all disputes subject to the forum selection clause. Furthermore, judicial economy and administrative convenience point towards resolving the parties' claims in the same forum. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's decision to the contrary. View "Azima v. Rak Investment Authority" on Justia Law