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Heirs of several Jewish art dealers doing business in Frankfurt, Germany in the 1930s sought to recover a valuable art collection (Welfenschatz) allegedly taken by the Nazis. The DC Circuit largely affirmed the district court's denial of Germany's motion to dismiss, holding that Germany failed to carry its burden of demonstrating that the allegations did not bring the case within the expropriation exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) as defined and applied in Simon v. Republic of Hungary, 812 F.3d 127 (D.C. Cir. 2016). On remand, the district court must grant the motion to dismiss with respect to the Federal Republic of Germany—but not the SPK, an instrumentality for which the commercial-nexus requirement can be satisfied without the presence of the Welfenschatz in the United States. The court rejected Germany's argument that the heirs must exhaust their remedies against Germany in its courts before pressing a claim against it elsewhere. Finally, the court rejected Germany's argument that the heirs' state law causes of action conflict with, and thus were preempted by, United States foreign policy. View "Philipp v. Federal Republic of Germany" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit reversed a petition seeking leave to subpoena the defendant law firm, Shell's United States counsel, for documents belonging to a foreign company, Royal Dutch Shell. The court held that it was an abuse of discretion for a district court to grant a 28 U.S.C. 1782 petition where the documents sought from a foreign company's U.S. counsel would be unreachable in a foreign country. The court cautioned in Application of Sarrio, S.A., 119 F.3d 143 (2d Cir. 1997), that an order compelling American counsel to deliver documents that would not be discoverable abroad, and that are in counsel's hands solely because they were sent to the United States for the purpose of American litigation, as in this case, would jeopardize the policy of promoting open communications between lawyers and their clients. View "Kiobel v. Cravath, Swain & Moore, LLP" on Justia Law

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The Second Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the district court's denial of defendants' motion to dismiss under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) for lack of subject matter jurisdiction on grounds of foreign sovereign immunity and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) pursuant to the act of state doctrine. The court held that it had subject matter jurisdiction over the case under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) where Argentina asserted control over its stake in YPF via expropriation; Argentina incurred a separate commercial obligation under the bylaws to make a tender offer for the remainder of YPFʹs outstanding shares; and Peterson claimed it was injured by repudiation of that commercial obligation. Therefore, the repudiation was an act separate and apart from Argentinaʹs expropriation of Repsolʹs shares, and Peterson's action against Argentina fell within the direct-effects clause of the FSIA. Petersenʹs claims against YPF also fell within the direct‐effect clause of the FSIAʹs commercial activity exception. The court declined to reach the portion of this appeal challenging the district court's ruling on defendants' act of state defense. View "Petersen Energia Inversora, SAU v. Argentine Republic" on Justia Law

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EIG, an American investment fund, filed suit against Petrobras and others, alleging counts of fraud, aiding and abetting fraud and civil conspiracy to commit fraud. EIG's claims stemmed from its loss of a $221 million investment in an undersea oil-drilling project off the coast of Brazil. Petrobras moved for dismissal based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction, arguing that Petrobras was an instrumentality of the Brazilian state and thus immune from suit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's order denying dismissal, holding that Petrobras was not immune from EIG's suit. The court concluded that Petrobras's commercial activity in Brazil caused a direct effect in the United States, including a direct effect on EIG. View "EIG Energy Fund XIV, L.P. v. Petroleo Brasileiro, S.A." on Justia Law

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Numerous plaintiffs filed a wrongful death action under section 6-5-410, Ala. Code 1975, against Continental Motors, Inc. ("CMI"), and RAM Aircraft, LP ("RAM"), among others, on behalf of the heirs of Mark Goldstein, Marjorie Gonzalez, and Luis Angel Lopez Barillas (collectively, "the decedents"). On March 10, 2010, the decedents died in an airplane crash in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The crash was allegedly a result of a defective starter-adapter assembly that had been manufactured by CMI and/or the failure of the airplane's engine, which had been refurbished by RAM. Mark and Marjorie were citizens and residents of Honduras; Luis was a citizen and resident of Guatemala. The administration of each of the decedents' estates was conducted in their respective countries of citizenship and residence. CMI and RAM filed motions for a summary judgment arguing that none of the plaintiffs was a personal representative of the decedents and, thus, that plaintiffs lacked the authority to pursue the wrongful-death claims. The circuit court denied CMI's and RAM's summary-judgment motions. CMI and RAM separately petitioned the Alabama Supreme Court for a writ of mandamus directing the circuit court to set aside its orders denying their summary judgment motions and to enter an order granting their summary judgment motions, thereby dismissing the plaintiffs' wrongful death action for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The Alabama Court granted CMI's and RAM's petitions in part and denied them in part. The Court concluded CMI and RAM failed to demonstrate the administrator-plaintiffs were without authority to pursue a wrongful-death claim on behalf of Mark's heirs. Therefore, in this regard, the Supreme Court denied CMI's and RAM's petitions for a writ of mandamus. The Supreme Court also concluded CMI and RAM demonstrated that none of the plaintiffs were personal representatives of Marjorie's or Luis's estate and, thus, lacked authority to pursue a wrongful-death claim on behalf of Marjorie's or Luis's heirs. Accordingly, the circuit court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over the wrongful-death claims brought on behalf of Marjorie's and Luis's heirs, and CMI and RAM were entitled to have their summary-judgment motions granted in that respect and to have those claims dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. Therefore, in this regard, the Supreme Court granted CMI's and RAM's petitions for a writ of mandamus and ordered the circuit court to grant CMI's and RAM's summary-judgment motions, and dismissed the wrongful-death claims asserted by the heirs of Marjorie and Luis. View "Ex parte Continental Motors, Inc." on Justia Law

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Petitioner-Appellant Mirella Ivonne Avila-Ramos appealed the district court’s denial of habeas corpus relief for an extradition certification order. Avila-Ramos was wanted for aggravated homicide in Chihuahua, Mexico. According to the warrant for her arrest, Avila-Ramos plotted with Arturo Heriberto Herrera Rey, her paramour, to murder her husband. Avila-Ramos’s husband, who had survived an earlier attempt on his life, was on his way to a hospital appointment when he was attacked and killed by a hired gun. An investigation implicated Avila-Ramos and Rey in the hit, and Rey was convicted of aggravated homicide for his involvement in the crime. On appeal, Avila-Ramos challenged the magistrate judge’s and district court’s probable cause rulings. Finding that the magistrate judge adequately found probable cause that Avila-Ramos committed aggravated homicide, the crime identified in the extradition request, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order. View "Avila-Ramos v. Deal" on Justia Law

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During the Rwandan Genocide, the United States admitted a limited number of refugees with priority given to those who were in the most danger, including, in 1998, Ngombwa and purported members of his family. In 1998, DHS received information from prosecutors in Rwanda that Ngombwa had twice been convicted in absentia by Rwandan tribal courts for participation in the Genocide and had been named in an indictment in the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The government proved at trial that his admission, status, and eventual naturalization were based on material falsehoods. At sentencing, the government proved to the district court’s satisfaction that the falsehoods were used to conceal Ngombwa’s participation in the Genocide. The Eighth Circuit affirmed his convictions for unlawful procurement of naturalization and conspiracy to commit the same, 18 U.S.C. 1425, 371, and his above-Guidelines sentence of 180 months. Rejecting Ngombwa’s claim his counsel was ineffective for failing to contact and interview five of his family members, the court reasoned that counsel made a strategic decision to avoid more detrimental evidence. View "United States v. Ngombwa" on Justia Law

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WesternGeco owns patents for a system used to survey the ocean floor. ION sold a competing system, built from components manufactured in the U.S., then shipped abroad for assembly into a system indistinguishable from WesternGeco’s. WesternGeco sued for patent infringement, 35 U.S.C. 271(f)(1) and (f)(2). The jury awarded WesternGeco royalties and lost profits under section 284. The Supreme Court reversed the Federal Circuit, holding that WesternGeco’s award for lost profits was a permissible domestic application of section 284 of the Patent Act, not an impermissible extraterritorial application of section 271. To determine whether the case involves a domestic application of the statute, courts must identify the statute’s "focus” and ask whether the conduct relevant to that focus occurred in U.S. territory. If so, the case involves a permissible domestic application of the statute. When determining the statute’s focus, the provision at issue must be assessed in concert with other provisions. Section 284, the general damages provision, focuses on “the infringement.” The “overriding purpose” is “complete compensation” for infringements. Section 271 identifies several ways that a patent can be infringed; to determine section 284’s focus in a given case, the type of infringement must be identified. Section 271(f)(2) was the basis for WesternGeco’s claim and damages. That provision regulates the domestic act of “suppl[ying] in or from the United States,” and vindicates domestic interests, The focus of section 284 in a case involving infringement under section 271(f)(2) is the act of exporting components from the U.S., so the relevant conduct occurred in the U.S. Damages are not the statutory focus but are merely the means by which the statute remedies infringements. The overseas events giving rise to the lost-profit damages here were merely incidental to the infringement. View "WesternGeco LLC v. ION Geophysical Corp." on Justia Law

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Purchasers of vitamin C filed suit, alleging that Chinese exporters had agreed to fix the price and quantity of vitamin C exported to the U.S., in violation of the Sherman Act. The exporters unsuccessfully moved to dismiss the complaint and later sought summary judgment, arguing that Chinese law required them to fix the price and quantity of exports, shielding them from liability under U.S. antitrust law. China’s Ministry of Commerce, the authority authorized to regulate foreign trade, asserted that the alleged conspiracy was actually a pricing regime mandated by the Chinese Government. The purchasers countered that the Ministry had identified no law or regulation requiring the agreement; highlighted a publication announcing that the sellers had agreed to control the quantity and rate of exports without government intervention; and noted China’s statement to the World Trade Organization that it ended its export administration of vitamin C in 2002. The Second Circuit reversed a verdict for the purchasers, stating that federal courts are “bound to defer” to the foreign government’s construction of its own law, whenever that construction is “reasonable.” The Supreme Court vacated. A federal court determining foreign law under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 44.1 should accord respectful consideration to a foreign government’s submission, but is not bound to accord conclusive effect to such statements. Relevant considerations include the clarity, thoroughness, and support of the foreign government's statement; its context and purpose; the transparency of the foreign legal system; the role and authority of the entity or official offering the statement; and the statement’s consistency with the foreign government’s past positions. Determination of foreign law must be treated as a question of law; courts are not limited to materials submitted by the parties, but “may consider any relevant material or source.” View "Animal Science Products, Inc. v. Hebei Welcome Pharmaceutical Co." on Justia Law

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In 2010, Hungarian survivors of the Holocaust filed a purported class action in the Northern District of Illinois, alleging that in 1944 the Hungarian national railway transported Fischer and up to 500,000 other Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz and other concentration camps. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the plaintiffs had neither exhausted remedies that may be available in Hungary nor established that the national railway is engaged in commercial activity in the U.S., as necessary to support the exercise of subject matter jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) expropriation exception. In 2016, Kellner, a member of the putative class, filed her own complaint against the Hungarian national railway in Budapest’s Capital Regional Court, which dismissed the case. In 2017, the district court received a “Motion to Reinstate” based on “class member” Kellner’s efforts to exhaust remedies in Hungary. The district court rejected the motion: [A]lthough there was a proposed class in this case and Kellner may have been a putative class member, … No class was certified …. Kellner ... is not a named party … and lacks any standing.” The Seventh Circuit held that it lacked authority to consider an appeal from a party not subject to the order sought to be challenged. View "Fischer v. Magyar Allamvasutak Zrt." on Justia Law