Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

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After sixteen-year-old Yaakov Naftali Fraenkel and two of his classmates were taken hostage and killed by members of Hamas, his family filed suit in district court against Iran and Syria under the terrorism exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1605A. Plaintiffs alleged that defendants provided material support to Hamas. The district court eventually entered a default judgment for plaintiffs and plaintiffs challenged the amount of damages awarded to them. The DC Circuit rejected plaintiffs' claim that the district court erred in failing to determine the solatium damages awards in conformity with the remedial scheme established in Estate of Heiser v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 466 F. Supp. 2d 229 (D.D.C. 2006). The court held that Heiser was a useful reference point, but not binding precedent. The court further held that the district court abused its discretion in awarding solatium damages because its judgment was based on impermissible considerations and clearly erroneous findings of fact. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded. The court affirmed the punitive damages and pain-and-suffering awards because the judgments with respect to those awards were consistent with the applicable law, adequately reasoned, and supported by the evidence. View "Fraenkel v. Islamic Republic of Iran" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit alleging that the denial of full compensation for the land allegedly seized from her family during the Cold War (the Estate) violated the bilateral Treaty of Friendship, Commerce and Navigation between the United States and the Federal Republic of Germany (FCN Treaty). The DC Circuit held, in light of de Csepel v. Republic of Hungary, that a foreign state was immune to claims for the expropriation of property not present in the United States. In this case, plaintiff did not dispute that the Estate was located abroad or that Germany was the foreign state itself. Therefore, the court held that the district court properly concluded that U.S. courts could not exercise subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's claims against Germany under the expropriation exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). However, the court left for the district court to consider in the first instance whether BVVG was properly considered an "agency or instrumentality" of Germany rather than the state itself. View "Schubarth v. Federal Republic of Germany" on Justia Law

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Liquidators petitioned for writ of mandamus to compel the DC district court's compliance with a Second Circuit mandate in an action involving claims to $6.8 million of alleged illegal proceeds from a New York bank account in the name of Kesten Development Corporation. The Second Circuit held that enforcement of Brazil's criminal forfeiture order violated the penal law rule barring United States courts from enforcing the penal laws of foreign countries. The court held that the proper standard of review in this case was the same as all mandamus cases and applied the Cheney factors. Applying the first Cheney factor, the court held that Liquidators have no right to relief and thus failed to satisfy the legal standard for obtaining mandamus. View "In Re: Trade and Commerce Bank" on Justia Law

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Liquidators petitioned for writ of mandamus to compel the DC district court's compliance with a Second Circuit mandate in an action involving claims to $6.8 million of alleged illegal proceeds from a New York bank account in the name of Kesten Development Corporation. The Second Circuit held that enforcement of Brazil's criminal forfeiture order violated the penal law rule barring United States courts from enforcing the penal laws of foreign countries. The court held that the proper standard of review in this case was the same as all mandamus cases and applied the Cheney factors. Applying the first Cheney factor, the court held that Liquidators have no right to relief and thus failed to satisfy the legal standard for obtaining mandamus. View "In Re: Trade and Commerce Bank" on Justia Law

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Leidos moved to convert an arbitration award into U.S. dollars based on the exchange rate on July 2, 2013, the date of the original arbitral award. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of the motion, holding that the district court mistakenly granted the motion. The court explained that the exchange rate had dropped 19.1 per cent from the award date to the judgment date, and thus the total dollar value of the conversion increased the value of the arbitral award by approximately $11.9 million. View "Leidos, Inc. v. Hellenic Republic" on Justia Law

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Leidos moved to convert an arbitration award into U.S. dollars based on the exchange rate on July 2, 2013, the date of the original arbitral award. The DC Circuit reversed the district court's grant of the motion, holding that the district court mistakenly granted the motion. The court explained that the exchange rate had dropped 19.1 per cent from the award date to the judgment date, and thus the total dollar value of the conversion increased the value of the arbitral award by approximately $11.9 million. View "Leidos, Inc. v. Hellenic Republic" on Justia Law

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U.S.-flagged ships on the high seas do not fall within the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act's (FSIA), 26 U.S.C. 1605, non-commercial torts exception. Plaintiffs filed suit alleging that Israeli Defense Forces attacked the vessel they were on and detained them in violation of international law. The DC Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint based on Israel's immunity from suit, finding that neither the "non-commercial torts" nor "terrorism" exceptions of the FSIA allowed jurisdiction. The court rejected plaintiffs' contention that Congress' amendment of the FSIA exception eliminated the requirement that a state be designated a sponsor of terrorism for the exception to apply. View "Schermerhorn v. State of Israel" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Sudan for personal injuries suffered by victims of the al Qaeda embassy bombings and their families in Nairobi, Kenya and in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. The DC Circuit held that the purpose and statutory history of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) support the conclusion that the plain meaning of 28 U.S.C. 1605A(a) grants the courts jurisdiction over claims against designated state sponsors of terrorism that materially support extrajudicial killings committed by nonstate actors; plaintiffs have offered sufficient admissible evidence that establishes that Sudan's material support of al Qaeda proximately caused the 1998 embassy bombings and the district court, therefore, correctly held that plaintiffs met their burden of production under the FSIA terrorism exception; the limitation period in section 1605A(b) was not jurisdictional, and thus Sudan forfeited its affirmative defense to the Khaliq, Opati, and Aliganga actions by failing to raise it in the district court; a plaintiff proceeding under either state or federal law cannot recover punitive damages for conduct occurring prior to the enactment of section 1605A; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in failing to vacate the default judgments for "excusable neglect" and in denying Sudan's motion under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(6). Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's findings of jurisdiction with respect to all plaintiffs and all claims; affirmed the district court's denial of vacatur; vacated all awards of punitive damages; and certified a question of state law – whether a plaintiff must be present at the scene of a terrorist bombing in order to recover for intentional infliction of emotional distress (IIED) – to the D.C. Court of Appeals. View "Owens v. Republic of Sudan" on Justia Law

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In this contract dispute between Getma and the Republic of Guinea, the Common Court of Justice and Arbitration of the Organization for the Harmonization of Business Law in Africa (CCJA), a court of supranational jurisdiction for Western and Central African States, set aside an award in favor of Getma. Getma sought to enforce the annulled award in the United States. The D.C. Circuit held that the CCJA is "a competent authority" for purposes of article V(1)(e) of the New York Convention, and for reasons of international comity, the court declined to second-guess a competent authority's annulment of an arbitral award absent extraordinary circumstances. Because Getma's arguments failed under this stringent standard, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court refusing to enforce the award. View "Getma International v. Republic of Guinea" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs sought a declaratory judgment stating that their family members were killed in the course of a U.S. drone attack in violation of international law governing the use of force, the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), and the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The district court dismissed the claims primarily based on political question grounds. The DC Circuit affirmed and held that it was not the role of the Judiciary to second-guess the determination of the Executive, in coordination with the Legislature, that the interests of the U.S. called for a particular military action in the ongoing War on Terror. In this case, El-Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries Co. v. United States, 607 F.3d 836 (D.C. Cir. 2010), controlled the court's analysis and compelled dismissal of plaintiffs' claims. View "Bin Ali Jaber v. United States" on Justia Law