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

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Kaspersky, a Russian-based cybersecurity company, provides products and services to customers around the world. In 2017, based on concerns that the Russian government could exploit Kaspersky’s access to federal computers, the Secretary of Homeland Security directed federal agencies to remove the company’s products from government information systems. Congress later broadened and codified (131 Stat. 1283) that prohibition in the National Defense Authorization Act. Kaspersky sued, arguing that the prohibition constituted an impermissible legislative punishment, a bill of attainder prohibited by the Constitution, Article I, Section 9. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. Kaspersky failed to adequately allege that Congress enacted a bill of attainder. The court noted the nonpunitive interest at stake: the security of the federal government’s information systems. The law is prophylactic, not punitive. While Kaspersky is not the only possible gap in the federal computer system’s defenses, Congress had ample evidence that Kaspersky posed the most urgent potential threat and Congress has “sufficient latitude to choose among competing policy alternatives.” Though costly to Kaspersky, the decision falls far short of “the historical meaning of legislative punishment.” Relying just on the legislative record, Kaspersky’s complaint fails to plausibly allege that the motivation behind the law was punitive. View "Kaspersky Lab, Inc.v. United States Department of Homeland Security" on Justia Law

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The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment refusing to enforce an arbitral award against the Czech Republic Ministry of Health and in favor of Diag Human, S.E., a corporation organized under the laws of the Principality of Liechtenstein. The court held that the final award was not binding on the Czech Republic where, not only the termination of the review, but also the content of the arbitration review panel's "Resolution," prevented the final award from becoming binding. Pursuant to the agreement, the parties had recourse to another arbitration panel, which was sufficient to prevent the award from becoming binding at that time. View "Diag Human S.E. v. Czech Republic - Ministry of Health" on Justia Law

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This case arose when Venezuela and two of its agencies seized all assets of an American drilling company's Venezuelan subsidiary. Both parent and subsidiary filed suit claiming that the expropriation of the subsidiary's business and assets without compensation violated international law. On remand from the Supreme Court, at issue was whether either company had alleged facts that were sufficient, if true, to establish that it had in fact suffered a taking in violation of international law. The DC Circuit held that only the American parent, not its Venezuelan subsidiary, had done so. The court held that the domestic-takings rule barred the subsidiary's expropriation claim where the subsidiary was considered a Venezuelan national under international law. In this case, the subsidiary was incorporated in Venezuela and had a legal identity distinct from that of its parent shareholders under local law. The court further held that, given the subsidiary's Venezuelan nationality, its takings claim against Venezuela was a matter of domestic, not international, law under the domestic-takings rule. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the subsidiary's claims, as well as the denial of defendants' motion to dismiss the parent's claims. View "Helmerich & Payne International Drilling Co. v. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela" on Justia Law

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Appellant, a dual citizen of the United States and Canada and incarcerated in the United States where he was convicted of a felony, sought a transfer under a treaty between the United States and Canada to a Canadian prison. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the complaint and held that the government's self-execution argument was non-jurisdictional and thus did not affect the court's subject matter jurisdiction to consider appellant's case under 28 U.S.C. 1331; even assuming the treaty was not self-executing, the government's position that appellant must rely exclusively on the implementing legislation was flawed, because the text and legislative history of the treaty and the legislation showed that the latter incorporated the substantive standards of the former, making those standards part of domestic law; the treaty provision on which appellant relied provides law to apply, although the scope of judicial review was narrow, limited to the terms of that provision and not reaching the correctness of the assessment or the outcome; and consistent with the narrow scope of judicial review, the denial of appellant's transfer was not arbitrary and capricious. View "Sluss v. DOJ" on Justia Law

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After the IRS refused to grant the foreign shipping corporation Good Fortune an exemption to some of its U.S.-based income from taxation, the tax court ruled in favor of the IRS. The DC Circuit reversed, holding that the IRS's interpretation of Internal Revenue Code 883 in the 2003 Regulation was unreasonable and could not stand. Even if the IRS reasonably concluded that sometimes—maybe oftentimes—bearer shares were incapable of proving the residence of their owners, the court held that the 2003 Regulation's categorical bar on considering bearer shares did not follow from that premise. The court explained that the IRS has not justified treating all bearer shares as incapable of proving ownership; and if some corporations' bearer shares were not kept in record form, and thus were not capable of proving the location of an owner, then the IRS should have identified those corporations' shares and tailored its rule accordingly. View "Good Fortune Shipping SA v. Commissioner" on Justia Law

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United States nationals, victims of al Qaeda attacks in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998, filed suit against the French bank BNP Paribas for damages under the AntiTerrorism Act (ATA), alleging that the bank provided financial assistance to Sudan, which in turn funded and otherwise supported al Qaeda's attack. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the suit based on failure to state a claim, holding that the victims failed to adequately allege that they were injured "by reason of" the bank's acts and could not state a claim for relief based on a theory of primary liability under the ATA. The court also held that the ATA did not permit recovery for claims premised on aiding and abetting liability. View "Owens v. BNP Paribas, SA" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Hezbollah and two foreign banks for injuries sustained during the attacks in northern Israel in 2006. In one action, American plaintiffs allege that Hezbollah's rocket attacks amounted to acts of international terrorism, in violation of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA). In a second action, all plaintiffs accused the banks of funding Hezbollah's attacks, in violation of both the ATA and the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). The DC Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of the ATA claims, holding that the district court must first determine that it has personal jurisdiction over the defendants before applying the statute's act-of-war exception. The court affirmed the dismissal of claims under the ATS based on the Supreme Court's recent decision in Jesner v. Arab Bank, PLC, 138 S. Ct. 1386 (2018), which held that foreign corporations (like the bank defendants here) were not subject to liability under that statute. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Kaplan v. Central Bank of Iran" on Justia Law

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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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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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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