Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

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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

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Internet services and social media providers may not be held secondarily liable under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) for aiding and abetting a foreign terrorist organization—here, Hamas—based only on acts committed by a sole individual entirely within the United States.In July 2016, plaintiff and thirteen other police officers were shot and either injured or killed during a tragic mass-shooting committed by Micah Johnson in Dallas, Texas. Plaintiff and his husband filed suit against Twitter, Google, and Facebook, alleging that defendants are liable because they provided material support to Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization that used Internet services and social media platforms to radicalize Johnson to carry out the Dallas shooting.The Fifth Circuit held, based on plaintiffs' allegations, that the Dallas shooting was committed solely by Johnson, not by Hamas's use of defendants' Internet services and social media platforms to radicalize Johnson. Therefore, it was not an act of international terrorism committed, planned, or authorized by a foreign terrorist organization. The court also held that defendants did not knowingly and substantially assist Hamas in the Dallas shooting, again because the shooting was committed by Johnson alone and not by Hamas either alone or in conjunction with Johnson. Therefore, the district court was correct in concluding that defendants are not secondarily liable under the ATA. The court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Retana v. Twitter, Inc." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed a second amended complaint (SAC), seeking (A) to hold the bank liable as a principal under the Antiterrorism Act of 1990 (ATA) for providing banking services to Hizbollah, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization alleged to have injured plaintiffs in a series of terroristic rocket attacks in Israel in July and August 2006; and (B) to hold the bank liable as a coconspirator or aider and abettor of Hizbollah under the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA). The district court granted defendant's motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6).The Second Circuit concluded that plaintiffs having abandoned their ATA terrorism and JASTA conspiracy claims, and thus the court addressed only their JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims. In regard to the JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims, the court found merit in plaintiffs' contentions that the district court did not correctly apply the analytical framework set out in Halberstam v. Welch, 705 F.2d 472 6 (D.C. Cir. 1983), specified by Congress as the proper legal framework for assessing such claims. The Halberstam requirements for a claim of aiding and abetting are (1) that the person whom the defendant aided must have performed a wrongful act that caused injury, (2) that the defendant must have been "generally aware of his role as part of an overall illegal or tortious activity at the time that he provide[d] the assistance," and (3) "the defendant must [have] knowingly and substantially assist[ed] the principal violation."The court concluded that the district court erred in its findings as to the plausibility of, and the permissible inferences that could be drawn from, SAC allegations of the bank's knowledge that the customers it was assisting were affiliated with Hizbollah and that it was aiding Hizbollah's terrorist activities. The court explained that the plausibility of the allegations as to LCB's knowledge of Hizbollah's terrorist activities and of the customers' affiliation with Hizbollah is sufficient to permit the inference that LCB was at least generally aware that through its money-laundering banking services to the customers, LCB was playing a role in Hizbollah's terrorist activities. Furthermore, the SAC adequately pleaded that LCB knowingly gave the customers assistance that both aided Hizbollah and was qualitatively and quantitatively substantial. Accordingly, the court vacated the district court's dismissal of the JASTA aiding-and-abetting claims and remanded for further proceedings. View "Kaplan v. Lebanese Canadian Bank" on Justia Law

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In 2017, Swiss law enforcement officers seized more than a thousand pieces of ancient art owned by the plaintiffs as part of an ongoing investigation into the illegal trafficking of cultural property. The plaintiffs sued the Swiss government entities and instrumentalities in the Southern District of New York, alleging that the seizure was arbitrary and made without probable cause. The district court dismissed the cases, holding that it lacked jurisdiction over the defendants under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(3).The Second Circuit affirmed, rejecting an argument that jurisdiction was proper under the statute’s “expropriation exception,” which applies in cases involving property taken by a foreign state in violation of international law. A routine law enforcement seizure does not ordinarily constitute a taking at all, let alone a taking in violation of international law, because it falls within a state’s traditional police powers. Although there are a handful of narrow exceptions to that general rule, such as when the seizure is not rationally related to a public purpose and is a pretextual attempt to nationalize property without compensation, or (has continued for an unreasonable amount of time, none of those exceptions applies here. View "Beierwaltes v. L'Office Fédérale de la Culture de la Confederation Suisse" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Kemper Independence Insurance Company denying coverage to Appellant for the loss of her home, holding that Kemper was not required to provide coverage for the loss of the home after Appellant's husband intentionally set fire to it.The parties stipulated that, with the intent to deceive, the husband concealed from Kemper facts about his involvement in the fire, and Kemper relied on that concealment and fraud to its detriment. The circuit court concluded that the "concealment or fraud" condition in the insurance policy covering the home barred coverage for Appellant's claims. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the husband was an insured under the terms of the policy; (2) the policy's "concealment or fraud" condition precluded coverage for Appellant; and (3) Wis. Stat. 631.95(2)(f) did not apply. View "Kemper Independence Insurance Co. v. Islami" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the family law court's order denying father's petition filed pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, concluding that father did not bear his burden of establishing the existence of ameliorative measures to ensure his children's safety. In this appeal concerning an international custody dispute involving the two minor children of an American mother and a Chilean father, mother was subjected to acts of domestic violence and emotional abuse by father, which was sometimes committed in the presence of the children.The court concluded that it is a reasonable inference from the evidence that father will continue to drink to excess and drive while intoxicated, thus exposing his children to a grave risk of harm. Given father's failure to acknowledge his excessive drinking and acts of domestic violence, as well as his repeated acts of driving while intoxicated, the court explained that there are no ameliorative measures that will mitigate the grave risk of harm to his children. View "Emilie D.L.M. v. Carlos C." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Hardee's after their six-year-old son was electrocuted by an exposed, electrified wire at one of defendant's restaurants and died. Hardee's moved for dismissal based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens, which the district court granted.The Eighth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal, concluding that, although its sister circuits take varying approaches to timeliness, under either approach, Hardee's filed a motion that was sufficiently untimely to warrant reversal. In this case, for 18 months, Hardee's knew the essential facts supporting its motion to dismiss. The court explained that the assertion that Missouri is an inconvenient forum for Hardee's rings hollow because of its long delay in filing its motion to dismiss based on forum non conveniens. The court concluded that, under these facts, the motion should have been filed earlier than 18 months after plaintiffs filed their complaint and earlier than the end of the discovery period prior to trial. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Hersh v. CKE Restaurants Holdings, Inc." 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