Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

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Plaintiffs and their family members were injured or killed in attacks carried out by Hamas, which the United States has designated as a foreign terrorist organization. They sued BLOM Bank for aiding and abetting Hamas’s attacks by providing financial services to customers affiliated with Hamas, in violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), 18 U.S.C. 2333, as amended by the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), section 2333(d)(2). The district court dismissed. concluding that Plaintiffs failed to plausibly allege BLOM aided and abetted Hamas’s attacks in violation of JASTA.The Second Circuit affirmed. While the district court applied the wrong standard for JASTA aiding-and-abetting liability, the complaint fails to state a claim under the correct standard. Plaintiffs plausibly alleged that the party whom BLOM aided (indirectly), Hamas, committed attacks causing the Plaintiffs’ injuries but their allegations did not support an inference that BLOM was aware of the customers’ ties with Hamas before the relevant attacks. The complaint’s references to media articles and publications on the connection to Hamas were insufficient. View "Honickman v. BLOM Bank SAL" 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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The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's July 8, 2020 Order granting an application for discovery assistance pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1782 and the August 25, 2020 Order denying reconsideration of the same. The Fund, a Russian corporation, sought assistance from the district court to order discovery from AlixPartners for use in an arbitration proceeding brought by the Fund against Lithuania before an arbitral panel established pursuant to a bilateral investment treaty between Lithuania and Russia.The court concluded that an arbitration between a foreign state and an investor, which takes place before an arbitral panel established pursuant to a bilateral investment treaty to which the foreign State is a party, constitutes a "proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal" under 28 U.S.C. 1782; the Fund, as a party to the arbitration for which it seeks discovery assistance, is an "interested person" who may seek discovery assistance for such an arbitration under section 1782; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in finding that the Intel factors weigh in favor of granting the Fund's discovery application under section 1782. View "The Application of the Fund v. AlixPartners" 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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In a prior opinion, the Ninth CIrcuit held that SS Mumbai could not equitably estop SS Bangalore from avoiding arbitration. Mumbai, a non-signatory to a partnership deed that contained an arbitration provision, argued that, based on the arbitration provision, Indian law applied to the question of whether it could compel Bangalore to arbitrate.The Supreme Court vacated and remanded based on its holding that the New York Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards does not conflict with the enforcement of arbitration agreements by non-signatories under domestic law equitable estoppel doctrines.On remand, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order denying Mumbai’s motion to compel arbitration. While a nonsignatory can compel arbitration in a Convention case, the allegations, in this case, do not implicate the arbitration clause—a prerequisite for compelling arbitration under the equitable estoppel framework. The court declined to apply Indian law because whether Mumbai could enforce the partnership deed as a non-signatory was a threshold issue for which it did not look to the agreement itself. The deed’s arbitration provision applied to disputes “arising between the partners” and not also to third parties such as Mumbai. View "Setty v.. Shrinivas Sugandhallayah, LLP" 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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Gater sought to renew a default judgment, which the district court entered in 2000, that enforced a Russian arbitration award in favor of Lloyd's Underwriters against appellants. Lloyd's assigned its default judgment to Gater in 2012. The district court entered a renewal judgment in Gater's favor after concluding that it had personal jurisdiction over appellants as well as subject-matter jurisdiction over the renewal claims.The Second Circuit vacated the district court's judgment in Gater's renewal action, concluding that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction over Moldovagaz. The court explained that the Due Process Clause prohibits federal courts from exercising personal jurisdiction over Moldovagaz because Moldovagaz has no contacts with the United States. Furthermore, Moldovagaz is not an alter ego of the Republic of Moldova.The court also concluded that the district court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over Gater's claim for renewal against the Republic of Moldova. The court explained that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) provides that federal courts lack subject matter jurisdiction over claims brought against foreign states unless one of the FSIA's immunity exceptions applies. In this case, the Republic of Moldova is a foreign state and no immunity exception applies to Gater's claims against it. Furthermore, the Republic of Moldova was not a party to the underlying arbitration agreement and no equitable theory, even assuming such theories apply under 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(6), supports abrogating the Republic's sovereign immunity here. Accordingly, the court remanded with instructions to dismiss the renewal action for lack of jurisdiction. The court nevertheless affirmed the district court's refusal to vacate its original default judgment because appellants have failed to demonstrate that the district court had no arguable basis to exercise jurisdiction to enter that judgment. View "Gater Assets Ltd. v. AO Moldovagaz" 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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After the district court entered judgment against defendant on plaintiff's claim of torture under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 (TVPA), defendant challenged the district court's grant of partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiff on defendant's statute of limitations defense.The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that the district court did not err in granting partial summary judgment against defendant on his statute of limitations defense where equitable tolling applied to plaintiff's claims. In this case, the district court did not err in determining that plaintiff's unrebutted evidence demonstrated extraordinary circumstances justifying equitable tolling where plaintiff presented credible evidence that he lacked realistic access to a legal remedy during and after the Barre regime in Somalia given the absence of a functioning government, widespread chaos and violence, and the risk of reprisal. Therefore, plaintiff satisfied his burden of showing the appropriateness of equitably tolling the limitations period until at least 1997. View "Warfaa v. Ali" on Justia Law

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Six individuals from Mali alleged that they were trafficked into Ivory Coast as child slaves to produce cocoa; they sued U.S.-based companies, Nestlé and Cargill, citing the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which provides federal courts jurisdiction to hear claims brought “by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States,” 28 U.S.C. 1350. The companies do not own or operate cocoa farms in Ivory Coast, but they buy cocoa from farms located there and provide those farms with technical and financial resources. The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit.The Supreme Court reversed and remanded. The plaintiffs improperly sought extraterritorial application of the ATS. Where a statute, like the ATS, does not apply extraterritorially, plaintiffs must establish that “the conduct relevant to the statute’s focus occurred in the United States . . . even if other conduct occurred abroad.” Nearly all the conduct that allegedly aided and abetted forced labor—providing training, equipment, and cash to overseas farmers—occurred in Ivory Coast. Pleading general corporate activity, like “mere corporate presence,” does not draw a sufficient connection between the cause of action and domestic conduct. To plead facts sufficient to support a domestic application of the ATS, plaintiffs must allege more domestic conduct than general corporate activity common to most corporations. View "Nestlé USA, Inc. v. Doe" on Justia Law