Justia International Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Environmental Law
Jam v. International Finance Corp.
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
United States v. Bengis
From 1987 to 2001, Bengis and Noll engaged in a scheme to harvest large quantities of South Coast and West Coast rock lobsters from South African waters for export to the United States in violation of both South African and U.S. law. Defendants, through their company, Hout Bay, harvested rock lobsters in amounts that exceeded the South African Department of Marine and Coastal Management’s quotas. In 2001, South Africa seized a container of unlawfully harvested lobsters, declined to prosecute the individuals, but charged Hout Bay with overfishing. Bengis pleaded guilty on behalf of Hout Bay. South Africa cooperated with a parallel investigation conducted by the United States. The two pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit smuggling and violate the Lacey Act, which prohibits trade in illegally taken fish and wildlife, and to substantive violations of the Lacey Act. Bengis pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Lacey Act. The district court entered a restitution order requiring the defendants to pay $22,446,720 to South Africa. The Second Circuit affirmed, except with respect to the extent of Bengis’s liability, rejecting an argument the restitution order violated their Sixth Amendment rights. View "United States v. Bengis" on Justia Law
Angelex Ltd. v. United States
The government appealed the district court's order which altered the terms of a bond the Coast Guard had fixed for the release of a detained ship that was under investigation and restricted the types of penalties the government could seek for the ship's potential violations of certain ocean pollution prevention statutes. The ship at issue, the Pappadakis, an ocean-going bulk cargo carrier carrying a shipment of coal to Brazil, was detained by the Coast Guard because the vessel had likely been discharging bilge water overboard. The court reversed and remanded for dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) where the matter was not subject to review in the district court because the Coast Guard's actions were committed to agency discretion by law. Consequently, the district court lacked jurisdiction to consider the petition.View "Angelex Ltd. v. United States" on Justia Law
Republic of Ecuador, et al v. Connor, et al
This case stemmed from Chevron's involvement in litigation over the alleged environmental contamination of oil fields in Ecuador. Ecuador sought discovery from John Connor and GSI Environmental, his company, for use in a foreign arbitration against Chevron. During the course of extended litigation with Ecuador, Chevron, an intervenor in the district court, benefited repeatedly by arguing against Ecuador and others that the arbitration was a "foreign or international tribunal." Because Chevron's previous positions were inconsistent with its current argument, judicial estoppel was appropriate to make discovery under 28 U.S.C. 1782 available for Ecuador. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for determination of the scope of discovery. View "Republic of Ecuador, et al v. Connor, et al" on Justia Law
United States v. Pena
MARPOL is the common name for the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1340 U.N.T.S. 62. At issue was whether the United States had jurisdiction to prosecute a nominated surveyor for knowingly violating the MARPOL treaty while aboard a foreign vessel docked in the United States. After thorough review of the relevant treaty and U.S. law, the court held that the United States had jurisdiction to prosecute surveyors for MARPOL violations committed in U.S. ports. Further, under the court's lenient standards of review for issues raised for the first time on appeal, the court found no reversible error in the indictment or jury instructions. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's denial of judgment of acquittal. Accordingly, the court affirmed defendant's conviction. View "United States v. Pena" on Justia Law
Chevron Corp. v. Weinberg Group
This case arose when some Ecuadorian citizens sued Chevron in an Ecuador court, alleging that Chevron was responsible for environmental damage there. As the proceedings in Ecuador unfolded, Chevron sued the Ecuadorian plaintiffs and their attorneys in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, claiming that the Ecuadorian plaintiffs and their attorneys had committed fraud in the proceedings in Ecuador. As part of the New York litigation, Chevron subpoenaed documents from the Weinberg Group and the subpoena was issued from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The Weinberg Group asserted the attorney-client and work product privileges over some of the documents responsive to the subpoena. Chevron moved to compel production of those documents in the D.C. district court. The D.C. district court found that the crime-fraud exception applied and granted Chevron's motion to compel, relying almost entirely on a decision in favor of Chevron by the New York district court in the underlying fraud investigation. The court concluded that, given that the D.C. district court relied on the decision of the New York district court and that the New York district court's decision was subsequently reversed by the Second Circuit, the court must vacate the D.C. district court's decision and remand. View "Chevron Corp. v. Weinberg Group" on Justia Law
Cape Flattery Ltd. v. Titan Maritime, LLC
Plaintiff filed a complaint against defendant, seeking indemnity and/or contribution based on the damage defendant allegedly caused through gross negligence in removing plaintiff's vessel from a coral reef. At issue was whether the district court properly denied defendant's motion to compel arbitration of the dispute under the Federal Arbitration Act (FAA), 9 U.S.C. 1 et seq., where defendant alleged that the district court erred in refusing to apply English arbitrability law. The court held that based on the Supreme Court's reasoning in First Options of Chicago, Inc. v. Kaplan, courts should apply non-federal arbitrability law only if there was clear and unmistakable evidence that the parties intended to apply such non-federal law. Because there was no clear and unmistakable evidence in this case, federal arbitrability law applied. Under federal arbitrability law, the court's decisions in Mediterranean Enterprises, Inc. v. Ssangyong Construction Co. and Tracer Research Corp. v. National Environmental Services, Co., mandated a narrow interpretation of a clause providing for arbitration of all disputes "arising under" an agreement. Under this narrow interpretation, the present dispute was not arbitrable. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment. View "Cape Flattery Ltd. v. Titan Maritime, LLC" on Justia Law
Carijano, et al. v. Occidental Petroleum Corp., et al.
Plaintiffs, 25 members of the Achuar indigenous group dependent for their existence upon the rainforest lands and waterways along the Rio Corrientes in Peru, and Amazon Watch, a California corporation, sued Occidental Peruana ("OxyPeru") in Los Angeles County Superior Court for environmental contamination and release of hazardous waste. OxyPeru's headquarters were located in Los Angeles County but OxyPeru removed the suit to federal district court where it successfully moved for dismissal on the ground that Peru was a more convenient forum. At issue was whether the district court properly dismissed the suit on the basis of forum non conveniens. The court reversed the dismissal and held that the district court failed to consider all relevant private and public interest factors, entirely overlooking enforceability of judgments factor, which weighed heavily against dismissal. The court also held that the district court correctly assumed that Amazon Watch was a proper domestic plaintiff, but erroneously afforded reduced deference to its chosen forum and ignored the group entirely in the analysis of numerous factors. Therefore, these errors led the district court to misconstrue factors that were neutral or weighed against dismissal, and to strike an unreasonable balance between the factors and deference due a domestic plaintiff's chosen forum. The court further held that the district court abused its discretion by failing to impose conditions on its dismissal that were warranted by facts in the record showing justifiable reasons to doubt OxyPeru's full cooperation in the foreign forum.
In Re: Application of Chevron
After first filing claims in a U.S. district court, inhabitants of eastern Ecuador filed suit in their country, alleging that the company contaminated the area and caused residents' health problems. The company, attempting to establish fraud and collusion in the proceedings, sought discovery from the plaintiffs' attorney for use in that litigation, in criminal proceedings in Ecuador, and in arbitration initiated against the Republic of Ecuador with the United Nations. The district court granted discovery under 28 U.S.C. 1782, which provides that the court of the district in which a person is found may order him to give testimony or to produce a document or thing for use in a proceeding in a foreign tribunal, unless the disclosure would violate a legal privilege. The court concluded that attorney-client privilege had been waived because documentary film-makers had been allowed intimate access to proceedings involving the environmental litigation. The Third Circuit reversed in part, holding that the public disclosure of certain communications did not lead to "subject matter waiver" of attorney-client privilege for communications that were covered by the privilege. The court remanded for consideration of whether certain communications are discoverable pursuant to the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege.