Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in International Law
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In 2023, the State of Texas, under the direction of Governor Greg Abbott, installed a floating barrier in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, Texas. The United States government filed a civil enforcement action against Texas, alleging that the installation of the barrier violated the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899 (“RHA”). The United States sought a preliminary injunction, which was granted by the district court, ordering Texas to cease work on the barrier and to relocate it to the Texas riverbank. Texas appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The Court of Appeals found that the United States demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of its RHA claims. The court determined that the part of the Rio Grande where the barrier was installed was a navigable waterway and that the barrier constituted an obstruction to this waterway. The court also found that the barrier was a structure as defined by the RHA and that it had been constructed without necessary authorization.In addition, the court found that the United States had demonstrated that it was likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief. The court noted that the barrier strained diplomatic relations with Mexico, interfered with the ability of the International Boundary and Water Commission to implement the provisions of a treaty concerning the allocation of waters in the Rio Grande, and posed a risk to human life.The court also held that the balance of equities favored the United States and that the issuance of a preliminary injunction was in the public interest. Specifically, the court noted that the barrier threatened navigation and federal government operations on the Rio Grande, and also posed a potential threat to human life.Taking all of these factors into account, the court ruled that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting a preliminary injunction ordering Texas to cease work on the barrier and to relocate it. View "USA v. Abbott, No. 23-50632 (5th Cir. 2023)" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and Defendant had two children together. After the couple separated, the children remained in Mexico with Galaviz. In July 2021, Defendant took the children to El Paso and refused to return them. Plaintiff filed an action in the district court requesting the return of the children to Mexico under the Hague Convention. Defendant raised two affirmative defenses claiming that returning the children would violate their fundamental right to an education and would expose them to a grave risk of harm or an intolerable situation. The district court concluded that Defendant had satisfied his burden and denied Plaintiff’s request for the return of the children. Plaintiff appealed.   The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court explained that in the present case, the district court’s findings regarding the children’s healthcare, including the children’s cognitive decline, the fact that they remained non-verbal, or their regression to using diapers, may be supported by evidence that would be sufficient in a custody dispute. However, this evidence falls short of meeting Defendant’s clear and convincing burden. Finally, Defendant presented no evidence that unsuitable childcare would expose the children to a grave risk of harm. He merely expressed concern that Plaintiff often left the children with her older daughters, and they did not take care of the children. This is not clear and convincing evidence of a grave risk of harm. View "Galaviz v. Reyes" on Justia Law

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Defendant-Appellant Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (“PDVSA”), an oil company wholly owned by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, entered into two Note Agreements and a Credit Agreement with the predecessor-in-interest to now-Plaintiff-Appellee Red Tree Investments, LLC (“Red Tree”). PDVSA became delinquent on its obligations under the contracts. Red Tree’s predecessor-in-interest accelerated the outstanding debt. Then Red Tree initiated these actions in Supreme Court, New York County, which Defendants removed to district court. PDVSA claimed that any further payment under the Agreements was impossible and should therefore be excused. The district court granted summary judgment against PDVSA on the grounds that PDVSA had failed to provide sufficient evidence that payment was impossible or in the alternative, that any impediment to payment was not reasonably foreseeable. It therefore entered judgment in favor of Red Tree and imposed post-judgment interest. On appeal, PDVSA contends that the district court erred in concluding that no reasonable trier of fact could find that payment was impossible or that U.S. sanctions were unforeseeable. PDVSA further asserts that the district court incorrectly calculated post-judgment interest.   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court agreed with the district court that payment by PDVSA was not impossible. Further, the court concluded that the district court did not err in its calculation of post-judgment interest. The court explained that under the plain language of the Note and Credit Agreements, the outstanding principal and interest that accrued prejudgment—including both default and ordinary interest—are subject to default interest post-judgment. View "Red Tree Investments, LLC v. PDVSA, Petróleo" on Justia Law

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In January 2017, Defendant-Appellant Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (“PDVSA”), an oil company wholly owned by the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, entered into a Note Agreement with then-Plaintiff-Appellee Dresser-Rand Company. PDVSA made two of the twelve payments due under the Note Agreement in April and July 2017 but failed to make any subsequent payments. In February 2019, Dresser-Rand declared PDVSA to be in default, accelerated the debt, and initiated this action in Supreme Court, New York County, which Defendants removed to the district court. PDVSA claimed that any further payment was impossible and should therefore be excused. The district court concluded that PDVSA had failed to prove that repayment was impossible. It therefore entered judgment in favor of Dresser-Rand. On appeal, PDVSA contends that the district court erred in concluding that payment was not impossible. PDVSA further asserts that the district court incorrectly calculated post-judgment interest.   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court agreed with the district court that payment by PDVSA was not impossible, and the court further concluded that PDVSA forfeited any arguments relating to post-judgment interest. The court explained that the evidence demonstrates that PDVSA never attempted payment to a different bank or in an alternative currency, nor did it investigate whether this manner of payment would have been truly impossible. Instead of the evidence shows, did nothing. PDVSA cannot benefit from the impossibility defense on speculation. View "Siemens Energy, Inc. v. PDVSA" on Justia Law

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This case involves a dispute between two law firms, each of which claims the right to represent a Salvadoran company in its efforts to stave off a transnational judgment-collection effort. Specifically, the two firms are vying to defend ALBA Petróleos de El Salvador S.E.M. de C.V. (“ALBA”) in district court from the enforcement of a $45 million default judgment obtained against Colombian narco-terrorist organizations. Marcos D. Jiménez appeared to represent ALBA. White & Case LLP moved to substitute itself as ALBA’s counsel. Both purport to represent ALBA. White & Case argued that the political-question doctrine, the act-of-state doctrine, and Venezuelan law required the district court to allow it to represent ALBA. Jiménez responded that he had the right to represent ALBA under Salvadoran law. The district court denied White & Case’s motion, holding that the issue was governed by Salvadoran law. White & Case filed an interlocutory appeal and, in the alternative, a petition for a writ of mandamus.   The Second Circuit dismissed the appeal and denied the petition for a writ of mandamus. The court wrote that it lacks appellate jurisdiction over this interlocutory appeal of the denial of a third-party motion to substitute counsel. The court explained that such an appeal fails to satisfy the requirements of the collateral order doctrine because the denial of a motion to substitute counsel is effectively reviewable after final judgment and does not implicate an important issue separate from the merits of the underlying action. White & Case also does not meet the demanding standard required to obtain a writ of mandamus. View "In re ALBA Petróleos de El Salvador S.E.M. de C.V." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, several family members of a United States citizen killed in an overseas terrorist attack, appealed from the district court’s judgment dismissing their claims against the Palestine Liberation Organization (“PLO”) and the Palestinian Authority (“PA”) for lack of personal jurisdiction. The Government, as intervenor in accordance with 28 U.S.C. Section 2403(a) and Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.1(c), also appealed from that judgment. On appeal, both Plaintiffs and the Government argued that the district court erred in finding unconstitutional the Promoting Security and Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act of 2019 (“PSJVTA”), the statute on which Plaintiffs relied to allege personal jurisdiction over Defendants.   The Second Circuit affirmed. The court explained that the PSJVTA specifically provides that the PLO and the PA “shall be deemed to have consented to personal jurisdiction” in any civil action pursuant to the Anti-Terrorism Act, 18 U.S.C. Section 2333, irrespective of “the date of the occurrence of the act of international terrorism” at issue, upon engaging in certain forms of post-enactment conduct, namely (1) making payments, directly or indirectly, to the designees or families of incarcerated or deceased terrorists, respectively, whose acts of terror injured or killed a United States national, or (2) undertaking any activities within the United States, subject to a handful of exceptions. Thus, the court concluded that the PSJVTA’s “deemed consent” provision is inconsistent with the dictates of the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. View "Fuld v. Palestine Liberation Organization" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a group of United States citizens injured during terror attacks in Israel and the estates or survivors of United States citizens killed in such attacks, brought an action against the Palestine Liberation Organization (“PLO”) and the Palestinian Authority (“PA”) pursuant to the Anti-Terrorism Act (“ATA”), seeking damages. The Second Circuit concluded on appeal that the district court lacked jurisdiction over the PLO and the PA and vacated the judgment entered against Defendants. Plaintiffs later moved to recall the mandate based on a new statute, the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018. The Second Circuit denied that motion. Congress responded with the statute now at issue, the Promoting Security and Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act of 2019 (“PSJVTA”). The district court concluded that Defendants had engaged in jurisdiction-triggering conduct under the statute but that the PSJVTA violated constitutional due process requirements. Plaintiffs and the Government disputed the latter conclusion, and Plaintiffs argued generally that the PSJVTA justifies recalling the mandate.   The Second Circuit denied Plaintiffs’ motion to call the mandate. The court explained that the PSJVTA provides that the PLO and the PA “shall be deemed to have consented to personal jurisdiction” in any civil ATA action if, after a specified time, those entities either (1) make payments, directly or indirectly, to the designees or families of incarcerated or deceased terrorists, respectively, whose acts of terror injured or killed a United States national, or (2) undertake any activities within the United States, subject to limited exceptions. The court concluded that the PSJVTA’s provision for “deemed consent” to personal jurisdiction is inconsistent with the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. View "Waldman v. Palestine Liberation Organization" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a citizen of the Republic of Lithuania, challenged the district court’s denial of his request for a preliminary injunction (the “Injunction Denial”). Petitioner sought— in connection with his petition for habeas corpus relief under 28 U.S.C. Section 2241 — to prevent the defendant government officials from carrying out his extradition to Lithuania. The district court denied Petitioner’s request for injunctive relief, deeming him unlikely to succeed on the merits of his claim that his extradition to Lithuania would contravene the extradition treaty between that country and the United States. More specifically, Petitioner maintained that Lithuania’s 2015 extradition request fails to comply with the treaty’s mandate that Lithuania produce what is called “the charging document” (the “charging document contention”). The Injunction Denial ruled, however, that the documents produced by Lithuania comply with the extradition treaty, and that Petitioner is therefore not entitled to preliminary injunctive relief.   The Fourth Circuit reversed. The court explained that it is satisfied that Petitioner is likely to succeed on the merits of his claim that Lithuania’s 2015 extradition request does not satisfy the charging document mandate of the extradition treaty. The court wrote that Petitioner has demonstrated that Lithuania’s 2015 extradition request to return him to that country does not satisfy the Treaty’s requirements. And the public’s interest in the Secretary of State recognizing and fulfilling Treaty obligations outweighs any detrimental impact that the denial of an improper extradition request could have. View "Darius Vitkus v. Antony Blinken" on Justia Law

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The plaintiffs in this case are American service members who were wounded, and the relatives of service members who were killed or wounded, in terrorist attacks carried out in Iraq from 2004 to 2011 by proxies of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. In 2019, victims 20 and their family members sued several Lebanese banks, alleging that the banks aided and abetted the attacks by laundering money for Hezbollah. After Plaintiffs filed suit, the United States Department of the Treasury labelled one of those banks, Jammal Trust Bank (JTB), a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. That designation prompted the Banque du Liban, Lebanon’s central bank, to liquidate JTB and acquire its assets. JTB then moved to dismiss the case against it, on the ground that it was now entitled to sovereign immunity as an instrumentality of Lebanon. The district court denied the motion, holding that a defendant is entitled to foreign sovereign immunity only if it possesses such immunity at the time suit is filed. JTB appealed.    The Second Circuit vacated. The court held that immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. Section 1604, may attach when a defendant becomes an instrumentality of a foreign sovereign after a suit is filed. Further, the court explained that it was the U.S. designation of JTB as a terrorist organization, not any attempt by Lebanon to avoid this lawsuit, that forced the bank into liquidation and public receivership. View "Bartlett v. Baasiri" on Justia Law

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Following the disclosures of the new information, Grupo Unidos challenged the impartiality of the arbitrators before the International Court of Arbitration (“ICA”) of the International Chamber of Commerce. The ICA agreed that some arbitrators failed to make a few disclosures but, notably, did not find any basis for removal and rejected Grupo Unidos’s challenges on the merits. Thereafter, Grupo Unidos moved -- unsuccessfully -- for the vacatur of the awards in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida. Autoridad del Canal de Panama, in turn, cross-moved for confirmation of the awards, which the district court granted. Grupo Unidos appealed.   The Eleventh Circuit affirmed. The court agreed with the International Court of Arbitration and the district court that Grupo Unidos has presented nothing that comes near the high threshold required for vacatur. Accordingly, the court affirmed the denial of vacatur and the confirmation of the awards. The court wrote that there is no indication in this record that Grupo Unidos did not have a robust opportunity to present evidence and confront the other side’s evidence. View "Grupo Unidos por el Canal, S.A., et al. v. Autoridad del Canal de Panama" on Justia Law