Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
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Confronted with reliable claims of escalating Chinese cyber threats targeting the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) revoked the authority of China Telecom (Americas) Corp. (“China Telecom”) to operate domestic and international transmission lines pursuant to section 214 of the Communications Act of 1934. The Commission additionally found that China Telecom breached “the 2007 Letter of Assurances with the Executive Branch agencies, compliance with which is an express condition of its international section 214 authorizations.” Although the Commission offered support from the classified record, consisting of evidence obtained pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (“FISA”), it has made it clear throughout these proceedings that its decision is entirely justified by the unclassified record alone.   China Telecom argues that the Revocation Order is arbitrary, capricious, and unsupported by substantial evidence. The DC Circuit denied China Telecom’s petition for review. The court explained that Commission’s determinations that China Telecom poses a national security risk and breached its Letter of Assurances are supported by reasoned decision-making and substantial evidence in the unclassified record. In addition, the court held that no statute, regulation, past practice, or constitutional provision required the Commission to afford China Telecom any additional procedures beyond the paper hearing it received. View "China Telecom (Americas) Corporation v. FCC (PUBLIC)" on Justia Law

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In a license revocation proceeding before the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the United States sought to admit classified evidence relating to electronic surveillance it had conducted against China Telecom (Americas) Corporation (China Telecom). Pursuant to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA),the government filed this petition for a determination that the electronic surveillance was lawful and that fruits of the surveillance were admissible in the underlying FCC proceedings. After the district court granted the government’s petition, the FCC revoked China Telecom’s license in the underlying action and we then denied China Telecom’s petition for review of the FCC order without relying on or otherwise considering the classified evidence.   The DC Circuit vacated the district court order granting the government’s petition because the government’s petition no longer presents a live controversy. Accordingly, China Telecom’s appeal from the district court order is moot. The court explained that here, the district court’s review of the surveillance materials was triggered by the government’s notice of its intent to use the surveillance in a “trial, hearing, or other proceeding in or before [a] court, department, officer, agency, regulatory body, or other authority of the United States.” In response, China Telecom principally requests disclosure pursuant to section 1806(g), asserting a due process right to discover the classified materials so that it may defend itself in the underlying FCC proceeding. The court explained that any order requiring the government to disclose classified evidence at issue in an FCC revocation proceeding would be wholly ineffectual because the proceedings in which the parties sought to use that evidence have ended. View "USA v. China Telecom (Americas) Corporation" on Justia Law

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Appellants are foreign companies that allegedly launder money for Kassim Tajideen, a prominent Hezbollah financier and specially designated global terrorist (SDGT). The United States seized three sums totaling $612,168.23 belonging to Appellants and filed the instant forfeiture action in order to keep the funds permanently. When no one claimed the funds for more than a year after the government gave notice of the forfeiture action, the government moved for a default judgment. Apparently realizing their mistake, Appellants belatedly attempted to file claims to the seized funds to prevent the district court from ordering forfeiture. The court struck Appellants’ filings as untimely and entered default judgment in favor of the government. After the court denied Appellants’ late reconsideration motion, they filed the instant appeal.   The DC Circuit affirmed the district court in part and dismiss the appeal in part for lack of jurisdiction. The court explained that Appellants’ Rule 59(e) motion was untimely and, as a result, so was its notice of appeal, at least with respect to the district court’s June 3 order striking Appellants’ putative claims and entering default judgment. Further, although the notice of appeal was timely with respect to the district court’s order denying Appellants’ Rule 59(e) motion, the court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion. The motion was not only untimely but also presented arguments that either were or could have been raised before judgment was entered. View "USA v. Three Sums Totaling $612,168.23 in Seized United States Currency" on Justia Law

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These consolidated cases, on appeal from a judgment of the district court, present competing claims to a blocked electronic funds transfer. The parties are the United States, which blocked the transaction because terrorists initiated it. On the other side are victims of Iran-sponsored terrorism who have obtained multimillion-dollar judgments against the Iranian government.   After learning of the government’s forfeiture action, attorneys for two groups of victims of Iranian terrorism and their relatives, holding judgments against Iran, filed separate writs of attachment. Plaintiffs sought to attach the funds at Wells Fargo pursuant to two federal statutes. The first, 28 U.S.C. Section 1610(g) of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”). The second is Section 201(a) of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (“TRIA”).   The district court ruled that Iran lacked any property interest in the blocked funds held by Wells Fargo. The court, therefore, quashed Plaintiffs’ writs of attachment. The DC Circuit court reversed and remanded. The court explained that tracing resolves this case in Plaintiffs’ favor. The government admits that the $9.98 million blocked funds at Wells Fargo “are traceable to Taif” and thus to Iran. The premise of the government’s forfeiture action is that the funds are traceable to Iran. The district court, therefore, erred in concluding that Plaintiffs had failed to show that the blocked funds were, under Section 201(a) of the TRIA, the blocked assets of [a] terrorist party. View "Estate of Jeremy I. Levin v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A." on Justia Law

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The government seeks the forfeiture of a trust established by Pavel Lazarenko, a former Prime Minister of Ukraine, located abroad on the island of Guernsey. Since 2004, a Guernsey court order has prohibited Lazarenko from accessing the trust, and a federal district court order has prohibited him from challenging the Guernsey order abroad. Lazarenko contends that the district court lacked statutory authority to issue the latter order and that, in any event, the order violated principles of international comity.   The DC Circuit rejected both challenges on procedural grounds. The daughters claim an interest in being able to litigate in Guernsey themselves, which might be impaired by a decision in favor of the government in this appeal. But Lazarenko himself adequately represents that interest. A would-be intervenor is adequately represented when she “offer[s] no argument not also pressed by” an existing party. Here, the daughters seek to raise precisely the same arguments as their father. Moreover, the daughters have revealed by their conduct that they find his representation adequate. In their cross-motion below, they adopted his arguments wholesale. And in this appeal, they declined the court’s invitation to appear at oral argument. The court, therefore, denied the daughters’ motion to intervene.   Further, the court wrote that Lazarenko could have pressed his current objections more than a decade and a half ago, and excusing his delay would risk wasting the considerable time and resources that the parties have invested in the district court proceedings. Under these circumstances, the district court reasonably denied his motion to modify the restraining order. View "USA v. All Assets Held at Credit Suisse" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a group of Cuban physicians, filed suit against PAHO for its role in facilitating Brazil's Mais Médicos program, under which Brazil hired foreign physicians to augment its medical services provided to impoverished Brazilians. Plaintiffs alleged that PAHO acted as a financial intermediary between Brazil and Cuba. PAHO moved to dismiss the suit, asserting immunity under both the International Organizations Immunities Act (IOIA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) Constitution.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of PAHO's motion to dismiss plaintiffs' claim that PAHO acted as a financial intermediary, concluding PAHO was not entitled to immunity under the IOIA because plaintiffs have sufficiently alleged that PAHO's conduct of moving money for a fee constituted commercial activity carried on in the United States. The court also agreed with the district court that the WHO Constitution did not render PAHO immune where the provision at issue, Article 67(a), is not self-executing because Article 68 of the WHO Constitution provides that the privileges and immunities shall be defined in a separate agreement. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Matos Rodriguez v. Pan American Health Organization" on Justia Law

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Eight years after Belgium extradited defendant, a Tunisian national, to stand trial in the United States on terrorism charges, the trial has yet to take place. In this appeal, defendant challenged the district court's denial of his motions to reconsider dismissing the indictment in light of intervening, and conflicting, Belgian legal developments.The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that the Belgian legal developments defendant invokes do not constitute significant new evidence that would warrant disturbing this court's 2017 decision affirming the district court's denial of his motion to dismiss the indictment. The court stated that defendant has selectively picked and chosen phrases from these documents to argue that this court must defer to the Belgian courts' interpretation of Article 5 and revisit its decision in Trabelsi II. However, the court concluded that none of the intervening decisions, communications, or pleadings present significant new evidence or detract from the deference this court owes to the Belgian state. Therefore, defendant has failed to meet the significantly high burden for departing from the law of the case. View "United States v. Trabelsi" on Justia Law

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After P&ID petitioned for confirmation of an arbitral award against Nigeria, Nigeria moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and asserted sovereign immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The district court denied the motion on the ground that Nigeria impliedly waived sovereign immunity by joining The Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards (New York Convention).Following its determination that it has appellate jurisdiction under the collateral order doctrine, the DC Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Nigeria's motion to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction on different grounds, concluding that a foreign court's order ostensibly setting aside an arbitral award has no bearing on the district court's jurisdiction and is instead an affirmative defense properly suited for consideration at the merits stage. In this case, because the requirements of the arbitration exception under 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(6) are satisfied, Nigeria’s sovereign immunity has been abrogated. View "Process and Industrial Developments Limited v. Federal Republic of Nigeria" on Justia Law

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In 1944, German troops entered Hungary. The Hungarian government and Nazi collaborators confiscated the Herzog Collection, “one of Europe’s great private collections of art, and the largest in Hungary.” Some pieces were transported to Germany, others were taken by the Hungarian government. The Herzogs fled Hungary and later attempted to reclaim the Collection, including through the Hungarian courts. In the U.S., they sued Hungary and three art museums, arguing that failure to return the artworks breached bailment contracts and constituted conversion and unjust enrichment.In 2013, the D.C. Circuit held the suit was not barred by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1604–05, and found that jurisdiction was not inconsistent with international agreements. After discovery, the D.C. Circuit affirmed that the action could proceed under FSIA’s expropriation exception; remanded for consideration whether that exception applies to 19 artworks that were temporarily returned to the Herzogs; ordered the dismissal of Hungary (citing FSIA); and ordered that the Herzogs be allowed to amend their complaint under the Holocaust Expropriated Art Recovery Act of 2016. The district court complied and added a new defendant, Hungarian National Asset Management (MNV).The D.C. Circuit affirmed, rejecting arguments that MNV is shielded by Hungary’s sovereign immunity, that the district court violated the remand mandate by allowing the addition of MNV, that failure to join an indispensable party precluded action against the remaining defendants, and that the principle of prudential exhaustion required dismissal. View "De Csepel v. Republic of Hungary" on Justia Law

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Sacks is a law firm with a 20-year history of working with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In 2011, IMF hired Sacks to negotiate disputed claims of various contractors that worked on the renovation of its headquarters. The parties’ contract asserts IMF’s immunity from suit and provides that any disputes not settled by mutual agreement shall be resolved by arbitration. In a subsequent fee dispute between Sacks and IMF, Sacks filed a demand for arbitration with the AAA. The arbitration panel awarded Sacks $39,918.82 plus interest but denied Sacks’ claim of underpayment in connection with earlier work.Sacks sued the Fund, claiming that the award should be vacated pursuant to the D.C. Code as “the result of misconduct by the arbitrators.” IMF removed the case to federal court and moved to dismiss it on immunity grounds pursuant to its Articles of Agreement, given effect in the U.S. by the Bretton Woods Act, 22 U.S.C. 286h. Sacks asserted the contract waived immunity by expressly providing for arbitration pursuant to the AAA Rules, which contemplate courts’ entry of judgment on arbitral awards. The D.C. Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. The AAA Rules and D.C. law contemplate judicial involvement in the enforcement of arbitral awards, so arguably the contract also does so but an international organization's waiver of the immunity must be explicit. The parties' contract expressly retains the IMF’s immunity, reiterating it even within the arbitration clause. View "Leonard A. Sacks & Associates P.C. v. International Monetary Fund" on Justia Law