Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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Following proceedings in district court, the trial court t entered a final judgment, finding Defendant liable, ordering him to disgorge over $4,000,000 in funds, and placing two of his entities under receivership in order to sell and reorganize assets to repay investors. Later, a federal grand jury sitting in Miami returned a superseding indictment that described consistent with the district court’s findings of fact.   After an extradition request was filed by the United States, the Supreme Court of Brazil allowed him to be extradited. He returned to the United States, and on the eve of trial, following over a year of pretrial proceedings, Defendant entered into a plea agreement, agreeing to plead guilty to one count of mail fraud. The district court later sentenced Defendant to 220 months’ imprisonment and ordered him to pay $169,177,338 in restitution.   On appeal, Defendant broadly argues: (1) that the custodial sentence imposed and the order of restitution violate the extradition treaty; and (2) that his guilty plea was not made freely and voluntarily. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the district court fully satisfied the core concerns of Rule 11, and the court could discern no reason to conclude that the district court plainly erred in finding that Defendant’s guilty plea was entered knowingly and voluntarily. The court explained that in this case, the record fully reflects that Defendant agreed to be sentenced subject to a 20-year maximum term, and his 220-month sentence is near the low end of his agreed-upon 210-to-240-month range. View "USA v. John J. Utsick" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed an action against the International Criminal Police Organization (“Interpol”), charging negligent infliction of emotional distress and violation of his right to due process of law under the New York State Constitution after Interpol refused to delete a so-called “red notice” identifying Plaintiff as a convicted criminal in the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”).   The district court granted Interpol’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that Interpol is a protected organization under the International Organizations Immunities Act (“IOIA”), 22 U.S.C. Sections 288-288l, and thus enjoys the same immunity from suit normally enjoyed by foreign sovereigns.   The Second Circuit affirmed concluding that the term “public international organizations” as used in 22 U.S.C. Section 288 includes any international organization that is composed of governments as its members, regardless of whether it has been formed by international treaty. Further, the court found that Interpol qualifies as a “public international organization” for the purposes of 22 U.S.C. Section 288 because its members are official government actors whose involvement is subject to control by participating nations. Next, the Headquarters Agreement between Interpol and the Government of France does not constitute an immunity waiver that would permit the present suit in a United States district court. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Plaintiff’s request for jurisdictional discovery prior to dismissal. View "El Omari v. The International Criminal Police Organization" on Justia Law

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In 2012, Rife moved from Kentucky to Cambodia, took a position as an elementary school teacher, began a relationship with a Cambodian woman, and adopted a young Cambodian girl. For six years, Rife lived and worked exclusively in Cambodia, obtaining annual “Extension of Stay” temporary visas through his U.S. passport. Rife did not visit the U.S. during that period but maintained a bank account and property in Kentucky. In 2018, Cambodian authorities investigated allegations that Rife had sexually assaulted his young female students. Rife’s school terminated his employment. He returned to Kentucky, where federal agents interviewed him. Rife eventually confessed to abusing two female students.Rife was charged with two counts of illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place, 18 U.S.C. 2423(c). The government did not allege that Rife offered anything of value in connection with his abuse of the girls; his “illicit sexual conduct” was non-commercial in nature. Rife argued that Congress lacked constitutional authority to punish him for non-commercial acts of sexual abuse that occurred in a foreign country years after he had traveled there. The district court denied Rife’s motion to dismiss, passing over the foreign commerce issue but upholding section 2423(c) as a valid exercise of Congress’s power to implement the Optional Protocol. The court sentenced Rife to 252 months’ imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, citing Supreme Court precedent; section 2423(c) as applied here was within Congress’s power to enact legislation implementing treaties. View "United States v. Rife" on Justia Law

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Ali sought to pursue 42 U.S.C. 1983 proceedings challenging as unconstitutional an executive order of Maryland’s Governor that prohibits boycotts of Israel by business entities that bid on the state’s procurement contracts. According to the Initial Complaint, “Ali is a computer software engineer who wishes to submit bids for government software project contracts but is barred from doing so due to the presence of mandatory ‘No Boycott of Israel’ clauses.”The district court dismissed with prejudice Ali’s lawsuit for want of Article III standing to sue. The Fourth Circuit affirmed but modified the judgment to provide that the dismissal is without prejudice. The court first disagreed with Ali’s interpretation of the Order. The Order indicates that if a business entity has engaged in anti-Israel national origin discrimination in the process of preparing a bid for a state procurement contract, the entity is barred from being awarded the contract; if the entity has engaged in a boycott of Israel entirely unrelated to the bid formation process, the Order is of no relevance. The court rejected Ali’s argument that the certification requirement constitutes an unconstitutionally vague loyalty oath. The Order does not require the entity to pledge any loyalty to Israel or profess any other beliefs. View "Ali v. Hogan" on Justia Law

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Yañez was shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent while on the border fence, which is in the United States. After being shot, Yañez fell and landed across the international border. Yañez’s family filed civil claims against the government and individual federal agents.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the rejection of claims under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), and a “Bivens” claim. The court rejected an argument that the shooting and Border Patrol’s Rocking Policy, authorizing deadly force in response to rock-throwing, violated an international jus cogens norm against extrajudicial killing and was actionable under the ATS; the ATS does not waive sovereign immunity, even for jus cogens violations. Claims under the FTCA were time-barred. Plaintiff initially did not pursue an FTCA claim because she believed that, under Ninth Circuit precedent, judgment on an FTCA claim would have foreclosed her Bivens claims. Plaintiff amended the complaint to assert FTCA claims after the Supreme Court abrogated that precedent in 2016. The FTCA’s judgment bar did not foreclose a contemporaneously filed Bivens claim when the government had prevailed on the FTCA claim, so the Supreme Court’s decision was irrelevant to this situation. That mistake of law was not outside of plaintiff's control and did not qualify as an extraordinary circumstance supporting equitable tolling. Special factor counseled against extending a Bivens remedy; doing so would challenge a high-level executive policy and implicated national security. View "Quintero-Perez v. United States" on Justia Law

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Sharifi alleges the U.S. Army took his land when it built Combat Outpost Millet in Afghanistan in 2010. The government asserted that Sharifi’s Fifth Amendment complaint was “vague and ambiguous” because it did not specifically identify the property interest that the government allegedly took, that Sharifi had not provided a legal description of the land, a deed, or other documents that would allow the government to identify the location. The Claims Court instructed Sharifi to file an amended complaint. Sharifi alleged that government records, verified by the District Governor of Arghandab, showed that his grandfather owned the land on which the Army built COP Millet: Ownership of the land passed to Sharifi and his siblings, who subdivided the land by a 2004 inheritance agreement. The government submitted six declarations, including several witness declarations and an expert declaration on Afghan law. The Claims Court dismissed Sharifi’s amended complaint for failure to show a cognizable property interest.The Federal Circuit affirmed. The government records attached to Sharifi’s amended complaint and the 2004 inheritance agreement do not constitute proof of land ownership under the laws of Afghanistan. Even accepting as true all factual allegations in Sharifi’s amended complaint, the amended complaint does not contain sufficient facts to state a plausible takings claim. View "Sharifi v. United States" on Justia Law

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The district court denied a habeas petition by Al Hela, a Yemeni sheik, challenging his detention at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay. Al Hela claims that the President lacked authority to detain him under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, 115 Stat. 224, for substantially supporting Al Qaeda and its associated forces; that he is entitled to release for due process violations; and that the discovery procedures failed to provide him with a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge his detention. The District Court for the District of Columbia has a standing case management order used in many Guantanamo habeas cases to manage discovery and to protect classified information from unwarranted disclosure. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, finding that the President has authority to detain Al Hela, who “substantially supported” enemy forces irrespective of whether he also directly supported those forces or participated in hostilities. Al Hela’s supportive conduct was not “vitiated by the passage of time.” The proceedings below complied with the requirements of the Suspension Clause, which provides that “[t]he Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” Guantanamo detainees are entitled to a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge the basis for their detention, not a perfect one. The Due Process Clause may not be invoked by aliens without property or presence in the sovereign territory of the United States. View "Al-Hela v. Trump" on Justia Law

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U.S. Border Patrol Agent Mesa, standing on U.S. soil shot and killed Hernández, a 15-year-old Mexican national, who was on Mexican soil, after having run back across the border after entry onto U.S. territory. Mesa contends that Hernández was part of an illegal border crossing attempt. Hernández’s parents claim he was playing a game with his friends that involved running across the culvert. The Department of Justice concluded that Mesa had not violated Customs and Border Patrol policy or training, and declined to bring charges. The government denied Mexico’s request for Mesa to be extradited. Hernández’s parents sought damages under "Bivens," alleging that Mesa violated Hernández’s Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. On remand from the Supreme Court for reconsideration in light of "Ziglar," the Fifth Circuit again affirmed.The Supreme Court affirmed. Bivens does not extend to claims based on a cross-border shooting. Its expansion to recognize causes of action not expressly created by Congress is “a disfavored’ judicial activity.” While Hernández’s Bivens claims are based on the same constitutional provisions as claims in cases in which damages remedies have been recognized, the context—a cross-border shooting—is significantly different and involves a “risk of disruptive intrusion by the Judiciary into the functioning of other branches.” The Court noted that foreign relations are “so exclusively entrusted to the political branches . . . as to be largely immune from judicial inquiry” and noted the risk of undermining border security. Congress has repeatedly declined to authorize the award of damages against federal officials for injury inflicted outside U. S. borders. When Congress has provided compensation for such injuries, it has done so by empowering Executive Branch officials to make payments under appropriate circumstances. View "Hernandez v. Mesa" on Justia Law

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Carrillo was involved in an extramarital relationship with Noeller. Carrillo’s family reported that Noeller called Carrillo, accused her of seeing someone else, and threatened her life; Noeller later came to her mother’s Mexico City house, where he shot and killed her. Noeller maintains that he ended their relationship after finding out about her family’s affiliation with the Los Pepes gang and Zetas drug cartel. He says that after the murder, he received warnings that Carrillo’s mother had hired hitmen to kill him. Noeller fled for the U.S. with his wife and children, who are U.S. citizens. Noeller's family members provided affidavits describing incidents after he left, in which gang members came to their homes looking for Noeller, threatened them, and beat them. During removal proceedings, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(A)(i), Noeller sought asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. Immigration judges twice denied his applications. Noeller’s BIA appeal was pending when Mexico submitted its extradition request. Noeller challenged the warrant issued in Mexico by an “Amparo proceeding,” which is “similar to habeas corpus ... to review and annul unconstitutional judicial decisions.” Noeller claims that the court in Mexico suspended the warrant. Mexico’s government contends that the original arrest warrant remains enforceable. The district court granted extradition. Noeller sought habeas corpus relief. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. Mexico submitted a valid request for extradition, which U.S. courts must honor. Noeller’s challenges to that request are “beyond the narrow role for courts in the extradition process.” View "Noeller v. Wojdylo" on Justia Law

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Asgari came to the U.S. for education, earning a doctorate in 1997. He returned to Iran and became a professor at Sharif University. His work involves transmission electron microscopy. Asgari traveled to the U.S. in 2011, stating on his visa application that he planned to visit New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles. He traveled to Cleveland to see an Iranian-American friend at Case Western’s Swagelok Center. They began collaborating. Asgari returned to Iran and obtained another visa for “temp[orary] business[/]pleasure,” identifying his destination as his son’s New York address. He applied for a job at Swagelok. The FBI investigated. The Center’s director stated that Asgari was on a sabbatical from Sharif University; that the Center conducted Navy-funded research; and that an opening had emerged on the project. Agent Boggs obtained a warrant to search Asgari’s personal email account for evidence that Asgari made materially false statements in his visa application and that Asgari violated the prohibition on exporting “any goods, technology, or services to Iran.” Based on information uncovered from that 2013 search, the government obtained another warrant to search Asgari’s subsequent emails. Indicted on 13 counts of stealing trade secrets, wire fraud, and visa fraud, Asgari successfully moved to suppress the evidence. The Sixth Circuit reversed, applying the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule. The affidavit was not “so skimpy, so conclusory, that anyone ... would necessarily have known it failed to demonstrate probable cause.” The sanctions on Iran are broad; probable cause is a lenient standard. View "United States v. Asgari" on Justia Law