Justia Government & Administrative Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in International Law
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Two consolidated cases arise out of the Hungarian government’s confiscation of property owned by Jews during the Holocaust. The questions raised by these appeals bear on whether survivors of the Hungarian Holocaust may hale the Hungarian government and its instrumentalities into United States courts to answer for a subset of the wrongs they committed. The plaintiffs invoked the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act’s expropriation exception as a means to pierce the Hungarian state’s sovereign immunity and assert jurisdiction in federal district court. Defendants object that the exception is inapplicable. The district court dismissed the claims of the plaintiffs asserting statelessness but concluded that most of the plaintiffs asserting Czechoslovakian nationality could proceed.   The DC Circuit largely affirmed. The court concluded that the plaintiffs claiming statelessness—have not made out a recognized claim within a Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act exception. Assuming without deciding that those plaintiffs were de facto stateless at the time of the alleged takings, as they claim, the plaintiffs have nevertheless failed to identify adequate affirmative support in sources of international law for their contention that a state’s taking of a stateless person’s property amounts to a taking “in violation of international law” within the meaning of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.   The court affirmed the district court’s denial of Defendants’ motions to dismiss the claims of some of the plaintiffs asserting Czechoslovakian nationality, with a few exceptions. The district court correctly determined that four of those plaintiffs had plausibly alleged they were Czechoslovakian nationals at the time of the takings. The court concluded that as for the five Lebovics sisters, the district court should have dismissed their claims. View "Rosalie Simon v. Republic of Hungary" on Justia Law

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Appellant and her d her family sued Sudan, seeking compensation for a terrorist attack on their family. The question on appeal is whether we have jurisdiction. Under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a state sponsor of terrorism may be sued for personal injury arising from acts of terrorism. But in 2020, Congress enacted the Sudan Claims Resolution Act, which stripped the federal courts of jurisdiction to hear most terrorism-related claims against Sudan. Appellants argued that the Act’s jurisdiction-stripping provision is unconstitutional and therefore, that their claims against Sudan may be heard in federal court. The district court dismissed for lack of jurisdiction.   The DC Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the Supreme Court has long held that citizens have a constitutional right to access the courts. The court wrote that Appellants challenged Congress’ restoration of Sudan’s sovereign immunity, but these claims simply do not implicate the right to access the courts. Moreover, Appellants’ claims are in tension with the government’s power to establish inferior courts and espouse the claims of its citizens. However, the court modified the district court’s judgment to be a dismissal without prejudice. View "Chava Mark v. Republic of the Sudan" on Justia Law

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The United States and the French Republic agreed to establish a fund for compensating non-French nationals who were deported from France to concentration camps during the Holocaust. The Department of State, which administers the fund, denied compensation to the plaintiffs here. They sought judicial review under the Administrative Procedure Act.   The DC Circuit concluded that the district courts in Schieber and Faktor correctly concluded that the plaintiffs there failed to state a claim. The district courts in Gutrejman, Schneider, and Bywalski erred in dismissing the claims at issue on jurisdictional grounds, but the court affirmed on the alternative ground that these plaintiffs failed to state a claim. The court explained that the plaintiffs object that Article 8 governs only disputes between the United States and France, as opposed to disputes between individual claimants and the State Department. But by its terms, Article 8 applies to “any dispute arising out of the interpretation or performance of this Agreement. View "Jenny Schieber v. USA" on Justia Law

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In 2015, two citizens of the United States and one citizen of the United Kingdom brought an action in the federal district court seeking either return of the artifacts or monetary compensation. The plaintiffs trace their lineages to three of the owners of the art firms. They claim that members of the Nazi government coerced the consortium members into selling the collection for far less than its true market value. Their initial complaint was named as defendants the Federal Republic of Germany and its agency – SPK, for short – that now administers the museum where the artifacts are on display. The district court determined in a thorough opinion that plaintiffs had not preserved their notGerman-nationals claim because they failed to raise it in their original complaint, in their amended complaint, or at any point in the lengthy proceedings in the district court, or in their brief or oral argument the first time this case went on appeal to this court. This appeal is the latest chapter dealing with SPK’s immunity defense under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.   The DC Circuit affirmed. The court held that the district court correctly understood the mandates to preclude Plaintiffs from amending their pleadings with allegations to support arguments not preserved on the existing record. The court explained that the Supreme Court’s mandate directed the court to instruct the district court to determine whether plaintiffs preserved their not-German-nationals argument. That mandate would make little sense if it also allowed the district court to permit plaintiffs to cure any failure to preserve that argument by amending their complaint. View "Alan Philipp v. Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz" on Justia Law

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The United States (“the Government”) initiated a civil forfeiture suit in federal district court against a $380 million arbitration award fund, the majority of which is held in the United Kingdom. The fund belongs to PetroSaudi Oil Services (Venezuela) Ltd. (“PetroSaudi”), a private oil company incorporated in Barbados. PetroSaudi won the award in an arbitration proceeding against Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (“PDVSA”), a Venezuelan state energy company. The portion of the fund held in the United Kingdom (“the fund”) is held in an account controlled by the High Court of England and Wales (“the High Court”). The Government seeks forfeiture of the fund on the ground that it derives from proceeds of an illegal scheme to steal one billion dollars from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (“1MDB”). PetroSaudi challenged two orders entered by the district court.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s interlocutory orders. The panel held that PetroSaudi’s appeal from the district court’s protective order under 18 U.S.C. Section 983 fell within this exception. Accordingly, the court had jurisdiction to consider the appeals of the two orders. The panel concluded that the sovereign immunity of the United Kingdom, as codified in the FSIA, did not protect the arbitration award fund from the two orders issued by the district court. The panel held that because the district court had in rem jurisdiction over the fund, it did not need in personam jurisdiction over PetroSaudi to issue an order preserving the fund. View "USA V. PETROSAUDI OIL SERV. (VENEZUELA) LTD., ET AL" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff is a U.S. citizen and a U.S. national, as that term is defined in 22 U.S.C. Section 6023(15). He claims to be the “rightful owner of an 82.5% interest in certain commercial waterfront real property in the Port of Santiago de Cuba,” identified by the Cuban government as La Marítima and Terminal Naviera. According to the complaints, the knowing and intentional conduct of Carnival and Royal Caribbean constitutes trafficking under Section 6023(13)(A). As a result, Plaintiff—who provided the cruise lines with written notice by certified mail of his intent to commence an action under Title III—claims that he is entitled to damages under Section 6082.   The Eleventh Circuit granted the petition for panel rehearing and vacated our prior opinion. The court held that Plaintiff has standing to assert his Title III claims, but that those claims fail on the merits. The court explained that the Cuban government confiscated La Marítima prior to March 12, 1996, and because Plaintiff acquired his interest in the property through inheritance after that date, his claims failed. The court, therefore, affirmed the district court’s grant of judgment on the pleadings in favor of Carnival and Royal Caribbean. View "Javier Garcia-Bengochea v. Carnival Corporation" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are U.S. service members wounded in terrorist attacks in Iraq and the families and estates of service members killed in such attacks. They appealed from the dismissal of their claims under the Antiterrorism Act (the “ATA”) as amended by the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (the “JASTA”), against various financial institutions in the United States and abroad (the “Banks”). As relevant to this appeal, Plaintiffs alleged that the Banks conspired with and aided and abetted Iranian entities to circumvent sanctions imposed by the United States and channel funds to terrorist groups that killed or injured U.S. service members. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ JASTA conspiracy claims primarily because Plaintiffs failed to plausibly plead a direct connection between the Banks and the terrorist groups. The district court also declined to consider Plaintiffs’ JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims because they were raised for the first time in Plaintiffs’ motion for reconsideration.   The Second Circuit explained that while it disagreed with the district court’s primary reason for dismissing Plaintiffs’ JASTA conspiracy claims, it affirmed the district court’s judgment because Plaintiffs failed to adequately allege that the Banks conspired – either directly or indirectly – with the terrorist groups, or that the terrorist attacks that killed or injured the service members were in furtherance of the alleged conspiracy to circumvent U.S. sanctions. The court agreed with the district court that Plaintiffs forfeited their JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims by raising them for the first time in a motion for reconsideration. View "Freeman v. HSBC Holdings PLC" on Justia Law

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Appellants are foreign companies that allegedly launder money for Kassim Tajideen, a prominent Hezbollah financier and specially designated global terrorist (SDGT). The United States seized three sums totaling $612,168.23 belonging to Appellants and filed the instant forfeiture action in order to keep the funds permanently. When no one claimed the funds for more than a year after the government gave notice of the forfeiture action, the government moved for a default judgment. Apparently realizing their mistake, Appellants belatedly attempted to file claims to the seized funds to prevent the district court from ordering forfeiture. The court struck Appellants’ filings as untimely and entered default judgment in favor of the government. After the court denied Appellants’ late reconsideration motion, they filed the instant appeal.   The DC Circuit affirmed the district court in part and dismiss the appeal in part for lack of jurisdiction. The court explained that Appellants’ Rule 59(e) motion was untimely and, as a result, so was its notice of appeal, at least with respect to the district court’s June 3 order striking Appellants’ putative claims and entering default judgment. Further, although the notice of appeal was timely with respect to the district court’s order denying Appellants’ Rule 59(e) motion, the court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion. The motion was not only untimely but also presented arguments that either were or could have been raised before judgment was entered. View "USA v. Three Sums Totaling $612,168.23 in Seized United States Currency" on Justia Law

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Pakistan International Airlines (“PIA”) failed to transport the body of N.B. to Pakistan for burial due to a miscommunication by employees of Swissport USA, PIA’s cargo loading agent. N.B.’s family members sued PIA and Swissport in New York state court under state law; PIA removed the action to the district court. Following cross-motions for summary judgment and an evidentiary hearing, the district court held that Plaintiffs’ claims are preempted by the Montreal Convention and dismissed the suit. On appeal, Plaintiffs argued that the Montreal Convention, which preempts state-law claims arising from delayed cargo, does not apply because human remains are not “cargo” for purposes of the Montreal Convention and because their particular claims are not for “delay.”   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that human remains are cargo for purposes of the Montreal Convention; and on the facts found by the district court, the claims arise from delay. The claims are therefore preempted by the Montreal Convention. The court further wrote that it was Plaintiffs who cut off PIA’s ability to perform under the terms of the waybill. That decision was understandable given the need to bury N.B. quickly, and it cannot be doubted that Plaintiffs found themselves in a hard situation. But their only recourse against PIA and Swissport was a claim under the Montreal Convention, a claim which they have consistently declined to assert. View "Badar v. Swissport USA, Inc." on Justia Law

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In early 2020, to help curtail the spread of COVID-19, Washington Governor Inslee issued Proclamation 20-24 prohibiting non emergency dental care. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court’s review centered on the lost business income from the Proclamation and the interpretation of an insurance contract under which the insurance company covered lost business income for the “direct physical loss of or damage to Covered Property” and excluded coverage for loss or damage caused by a “virus.” Drs. Sarah Hill and Joseph Stout were dentists who operated two dental offices under their business Hill and Stout PLLC (HS). HS bought a property insurance policy from Mutual of Enumclaw Insurance Company (MOE) that covered business income lost due to “direct physical loss of or damage to” the properties. HS sued MOE for coverage because of its inability to use its offices for nonemergency dental practice under the Proclamation and later amended to add a putative class action. MOE moved to dismiss, arguing that HS failed to show a “direct physical loss of or damage to” the property and that the virus exclusion applied. The trial court denied the motion. After review, the Supreme Court affirmed the trial court granting summary judgment in favor of MOE. “It is unreasonable to read ‘direct physical loss of . . . property’ in a property insurance policy to include constructive loss of intended use of property. Such a loss is not ‘physical.’ Accordingly, the Proclamation did not trigger coverage under the policy.” View "Hill & Stout, PLLC v. Mut. of Enumclaw Ins. Co." on Justia Law