Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

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In this case, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sought to recover approximately $3.3 million from Raimund Gastauer, a German citizen residing in Germany, alleging that Gastauer received the money from his son, who had obtained the money through securities fraud in the United States. Gastauer challenged the jurisdiction of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts over him, contending that he had no relevant contacts with the United States. The district court, however, ruled it could assert jurisdiction over Gastauer because it had jurisdiction over his son, the primary defendant. The judgment ordered Gastauer to pay the $3.3 million, plus prejudgment interest, to the SEC.Gastauer appealed, and the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The appellate court rejected the SEC's argument that a court may impute the jurisdictional contacts of a primary defendant to a relief defendant who received ill-gotten funds from the primary defendant. It held that such an approach would violate the relief defendant's due process rights, particularly where, as here, the relief defendant had no relevant contacts with the United States and was not accused of any wrongdoing. The appellate court also underscored that the relief defendant's status as a foreign resident further cautioned against an expansive view of the district court's jurisdiction, given the potential risks to international comity. The appellate court remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings consistent with its opinion. View "SEC v. Gastauer" on Justia Law

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In 2016, Venezuela's state-owned oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), offered a bond swap whereby its noteholders could exchange unsecured notes due in 2017 for new, secured notes due in 2020. PDVSA defaulted in 2019, and the National Assembly of Venezuela passed a resolution declaring the bond swap a "national public contract" requiring its approval under Article 150 of the Venezuelan Constitution. PDVSA, along with its subsidiaries PDVSA Petróleo S.A. and PDV Holding, Inc., initiated a lawsuit seeking a judgment declaring the 2020 Notes and their governing documents "invalid, illegal, null, and void ab initio, and thus unenforceable." The case was taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which certified three questions to the New York Court of Appeals.The New York Court of Appeals, in answering the first question, ruled that Venezuelan law governs the validity of the notes under Uniform Commercial Code § 8-110 (a) (1), which encompasses plaintiffs' arguments concerning whether the issuance of the notes was duly authorized by the Venezuelan National Assembly under the Venezuelan Constitution. However, New York law governs the transaction in all other respects, including the consequences if a security was "issued with a defect going to its validity." Given the court's answer to the first certified question, it did not answer the remaining questions. View "Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. v MUFG Union Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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This case involves Vertiv, Inc., Vertiv Capital, Inc., and Gnaritis, Inc., Delaware corporations, who sued Wayne Burt, PTE Ltd., a Singaporean corporation, for defaulting on a loan. Vertiv sought damages and a declaratory judgment. Later, Wayne Burt informed the court that it was in liquidation proceedings in Singapore and moved to vacate the judgments against it. The District Court granted the motion and vacated the judgments, reopening the cases. Wayne Burt then moved to dismiss Vertiv’s claims, either on international comity grounds in deference to the ongoing liquidation proceedings in Singapore, or due to a lack of personal jurisdiction. The District Court granted Wayne Burt’s motion to dismiss, concluding that extending comity to the Singaporean court proceedings was appropriate.On appeal, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit vacated the District Court's decision and remanded the case. The court clarified the standard to apply when deciding whether to abstain from adjudicating a case in deference to a pending foreign bankruptcy proceeding. The court held that a U.S. civil action is “parallel” to a foreign bankruptcy proceeding when: (1) the foreign bankruptcy proceeding is ongoing in a duly authorized tribunal while the civil action is pending in the U.S. court; and (2) the outcome of the U.S. civil action may affect the debtor’s estate. The court also held that a party seeking the extension of comity must show that (1) “the foreign bankruptcy law shares the U.S. policy of equal distribution of assets,” and (2) “the foreign law mandates the issuance or at least authorizes the request for the stay.” If a party makes a prima facie case for comity, the court should then determine whether extending comity would be prejudicial to U.S. interests. If a U.S. court decides to extend comity to a foreign bankruptcy proceeding, it should ordinarily stay the civil action or dismiss it without prejudice. View "Vertiv Inc. v. Wayne Burt PTE Ltd" on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reversed a lower court's dismissal of a lawsuit brought by the government of Mexico against several U.S. gun manufacturers and a gun distributor. The lawsuit alleges that these companies facilitated illegal gun trafficking into Mexico, causing significant harm to the country. The lower court had dismissed the case based on the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA), which generally prohibits lawsuits against gun manufacturers and sellers for harm caused by the criminal misuse of their products. On appeal, the First Circuit held that the PLCAA does apply to lawsuits initiated by foreign governments for harm suffered outside the United States. However, the court also found that Mexico's lawsuit plausibly alleges a type of claim that is statutorily exempt from the PLCAA's general prohibition, specifically, that the defendants knowingly violated federal and state statutes applicable to the sale or marketing of firearms, and that this violation was a proximate cause of the harm Mexico suffered. The case was remanded back to the lower court for further proceedings. View "Estados Unidos Mexicanos v. Smith & Wesson Brands Inc." on Justia Law

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in a case brought by the State of Missouri against several Chinese entities, including the government of the People's Republic of China, the Wuhan Institute of Virology, and others. Missouri accused the defendants of negligence in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic, alleging that they allowed the virus to spread worldwide, engaged in a campaign to keep other countries from learning about the virus, and hoarded personal protective equipment (PPE). The court decided that most of Missouri's claims were blocked by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, which generally protects foreign states from lawsuits in U.S. courts. However, the court allowed one claim to proceed: the allegation that China hoarded PPE while the rest of the world was unaware of the extent of the virus. The court held that this claim fell under the "commercial activity" exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, as it involved alleged anti-competitive behavior that had a direct effect in the United States. The case was remanded for further proceedings on this claim. View "The State of Missouri v. The Peoples Republic of China" on Justia Law

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This case was brought by the plaintiffs-appellants, David Cassirer, the Estate of Ava Cassirer, and the United Jewish Federation of San Diego County, against the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation, an instrumentality of the Kingdom of Spain. The case centers around a painting by French Impressionist Camille Pissarro, which was stolen by the Nazis in 1939 Germany. The painting eventually came into the possession of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, which has publicly displayed it in Madrid, Spain since 1993. When the plaintiffs learned of the painting's location in 2000, they petitioned for its return, but were denied, leading to the present lawsuit filed in 2005.The case hinged on whether Spanish or California law should govern the determination of ownership of the painting. Under Spanish law, the defendant would retain the painting, having gained prescriptive title through possession for over three years in good faith. Under California law, the plaintiffs would recover the painting, as a thief cannot pass good title to stolen property.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, on remand from the United States Supreme Court, applied California’s three-step “governmental interest analysis” for choice-of-law disputes. The court found that there was a true conflict between the laws of Spain and California, and that each jurisdiction had a legitimate interest in applying its laws to the case. The court then resolved the conflict by applying the law of the jurisdiction whose governmental interests would be more impaired if its law were not applied. The court concluded that Spain’s governmental interests would be more impaired by the application of California law than would California’s governmental interests be impaired by the application of Spanish law. Thus, Spanish law applied, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection had gained prescriptive title to the painting. The court affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. View "CASSIRER V. THYSSEN-BORNEMISZA COLLECTION" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit considered an appeal by Jose Guadalupe Diaz-Diaz and Martin Perez-Marrufo, two members of the Barrio Azteca gang, who were convicted for their involvement in the murders of three people in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in 2011. The defendants separately appealed their convictions and sentences, specifically questioning whether sufficient evidence existed to support their convictions for conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country under 18 U.S.C. § 956(a)(1). Diaz also challenged his aiding-and-abetting convictions and his three consecutive life sentences for his convictions under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) and (j). Perez-Marrufo also challenged an obstruction of justice enhancement imposed at sentencing.The court held that sufficient evidence existed to support the defendants' convictions for conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country. The court also affirmed the obstruction of justice sentencing enhancement in Perez-Marrufo's case and the sufficiency of the evidence to support Diaz's convictions for aiding and abetting in Salcido's murder. However, the court held that the district court erred in imposing mandatory consecutive life sentences for Diaz's three section 924(j) convictions and remanded the case for resentencing on these counts. View "USA v. Diaz Diaz" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit considered an appeal by Khan Mohammed, who had been convicted of international drug trafficking and narcoterrorism and sentenced to two concurrent life sentences. The district court later vacated the narcoterrorism charge, and upon resentencing for the drug trafficking charge, applied a terrorism enhancement under Section 3A1.4 of the Sentencing Guidelines, again resulting in a life sentence.Mohammed appealed this new sentence, arguing that the district court committed legal and factual errors in applying the terrorism enhancement, and used the wrong burden of proof. The appellate court affirmed Mohammed’s sentence. The court found no plain error in the lower court's application of Section 3A1.4, rejecting Mohammed's argument that the language of the statute had been abrogated and that the enhancement should only apply to convictions of federal crimes of terrorism. The court also held that the district court did not err by applying a preponderance of the evidence standard to conduct that was the subject of Mohammed's vacated conviction, even if the case involved extraordinary circumstances. Lastly, the court upheld the district court's factual findings that supported the application of the terrorism enhancement, declining to disturb findings that had already been upheld on appeal. View "USA v. Mohammed" on Justia Law

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In the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, the case involved Peter Sotis, who was convicted for violating export controls. He had conspired to export diving equipment, specifically rebreathers, to Libya without a license, despite the Department of Commerce requiring a license to export certain products to Libya that implicate the United States’ national security interests.Sotis challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support each count of his conviction, the opinion testimony presented at trial, and the reasonableness of his 57-month sentence. He argued that there was insufficient evidence to prove willfulness, to prove that he and another individual had acted in conspiracy, and to prove that the rebreathers were closed-circuit, which would have resulted in a material and prejudicial variance from the indictment. He also claimed that one expert witness and one lay witness invaded the province of the jury by opining on an ultimate issue in the case.The Court of Appeals found that there was sufficient evidence for a reasonable jury to find that Sotis had sufficient knowledge of the illegality of his conduct to have willfully violated the export control laws. The Court also found that the government sufficiently proved that Sotis conspired with another individual to violate the export control laws. Moreover, the Court rejected Sotis's argument that there was a material variance between the indictment and the evidence presented at trial.Regarding the expert and lay witness testimonies, the Court held that the testimonies were not improper. The Court also found that the district court did not err in applying the sentencing guidelines and that Sotis's sentence was not substantively unreasonable. As a result, the Court affirmed Sotis's conviction and sentence. View "USA v. Sotis" on Justia Law

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The case involves the classification of certain knit gloves with partial plastic coating under the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the decision of the United States Court of International Trade that the gloves are properly classified under heading 6116. The plaintiff, Magid Glove & Safety Manufacturing Co. LLC, imported the gloves from China and South Korea and argued that the gloves should have been classified under subheading 3926.20.10, a duty-free provision. However, the Court of International Trade and the Court of Appeals disagreed, stating that the gloves are not "of plastics" as required by heading 3926, but are "knitted" as described by heading 6116. The Court of Appeals also rejected the plaintiff's argument that Section XI Note 1(h) and the "completely embedded" test applied in a previous case excluded the gloves from classification under heading 6116. The court concluded that the term "completely embedded" does not appear in Section XI Note 1(h) or the two competing headings in this case and is not applicable to the classification of the gloves. View "MAGID GLOVE & SAFETY MANUFACTURING CO. LLC v. US" on Justia Law