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

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After Esther Klieman was killed in a terrorist attack on an Israeli public bus, plaintiffs filed suit under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA), among other laws. The district court dismissed the case against the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) for want of personal jurisdiction. The DC Circuit held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in agreeing, in light of the intervening Supreme Court case of Daimler AG v. Bauman, 571 U.S. 117 (2014), to reconsider its earlier ruling that the district court had general personal jurisdiction over defendants. The court held that Daimler, and circuit precedent, effectively foreclosed a ruling that the district court had general jurisdiction over the PA/PLO; plaintiffs' prima facie case for specific jurisdiction did not meet the Constitution's requirements; and plaintiffs have neither established the circumstances rendering section 4 of the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act of 2018 applicable nor facts justifying a remand for discovery on the issue. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's decision. View "Estate of Esther Klieman v. Palestinian Authority" on Justia Law

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In this consolidated opinion, the DC Circuit addressed cases arising from the Beirut, Nairobi, and Dar es Salaam terrorist attacks. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's dismissals of their claims against Iran, contending that the district courts erred in raising the statute of limitations sua sponte and in dismissing their complaints as untimely. One group of plaintiffs challenged the denial of motions for relief from judgment that they filed after their claims were dismissed. The DC Circuit did not reach the statute of limitations issue or the postjudgment motions. Rather, the court held that the district court lacks authority to sua sponte raise a forfeited statute of limitations defense in a Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) terrorism exception case, at least where the defendant sovereign fails to appear. Accordingly, the court reversed the district courts' judgments, vacated the dismissals of the complaint, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Maalouf v. Islamic Republic of Iran" on Justia Law

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In 2010, the widow of a Taiwanese plastics magnate and billionaire filed suit against the trusts created before her husband's death, alleging that the transfer of a large portion of her husband's assets to the trusts unlawfully denied her the full marital estate to which she was entitled. The district court ultimately granted, subject to conditions, the trusts' motion to dismiss the complaint on forum non conveniens grounds. The DC Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the district court failed to give appropriate weight to the widow's legitimate choice of forum and erred in concluding that the private interest factors weighed slightly in favor of dismissal and in overemphasizing the public interest factors in deciding to dismiss this case on forum non conveniens grounds. In this case, the trusts failed to meet its heavy burden of showing that suit in the United States was so inconvenient as to be harassing, vexing, or oppressive. The court held that, the district court's errors, considered together, constituted a clear abuse of discretion. View "Shi v. New Mighty U.S. Trust" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an American citizen, filed suit under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 (TVPA), against two foreign officials from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for alleged torture. The district court granted defendants' motion to dismiss based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to the foreign official immunity doctrine. The DC Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal and held that defendants were not entitled to conduct-based foreign official immunity under the common law. In this case, defendants were being sued in their individual capacities and plaintiff was not seeking compensation of state funds. The court explained that, in cases like this one, in which the plaintiff pursues an individual-capacity claim seeking relief against an official in a personal capacity, exercising jurisdiction did not enforce a rule against the foreign state. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Lewis v. Mutond" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, Palestinians who mostly reside in the disputed West Bank territory, sued pro-Israeli American citizens and entities, including a former U.S. deputy national security advisor, claiming that the defendants engaged in a conspiracy to expel all non-Jews from the territory by providing financial and construction assistance to “settlements” and that the defendants knew their conduct would result in the mass killings of Palestinians. The claims cited the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350; American-citizen plaintiffs also brought claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act, Pub. L. No. 102-256. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, concluding that the complaint raised nonjusticiable political questions. The D.C. Circuit reversed after holding that the court correctly treated the issue as jurisdictional. The court first identified two relevant questions: Who has sovereignty over the disputed territory Are Israeli settlers committing genocide? The court then applied the Supreme Court’s “Baker" factors, concluded that the only political question concerned who has sovereignty, and held that the question is extricable because a court could rule in the plaintiffs’ favor without addressing who has sovereignty if it concluded that Israeli settlers are committing genocide. If it becomes clear at a later stage that resolving any of the claims requires a sovereignty determination, those claims can be dismissed. View "Al-Tamimi v. Adelson" on Justia Law

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Assuming the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act's immunity applies, the DC Circuit held that it leaves intact the district courts' subject-matter jurisdiction over federal criminal cases involving foreign sovereigns. The court affirmed the district court's order holding the subpoena's target, a corporation owned by a foreign sovereign, in contempt for failure to comply. In this case, the court held that there was a reasonable probability the information sought through the subpoena at issue concerned a commercial activity that caused a direct effect in the United States. The court held that the Act, even where it applies, allows courts to exercise jurisdiction over such activities and the ancillary challenges in this appeal lacked merit. View "In re: Grand Jury Subpoena" on Justia Law

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Survivors filed suit against the Republic of Hungary and Hungary's state-owned railway company, seeking compensation for the seizure and expropriation of Survivors' property as part of the Hungarian government's genocidal campaign. The DC Circuit held that the district court erred by dismissing the case on remand. The court held that the district court erred by dismissing the case on international comity grounds where the court's recent decision in Philipp v. Federal Republic of Germany, 894 F.3d 406 (D.C. Cir. 2018), squarely rejected the asserted comity-based ground for declining statutorily assigned jurisdiction. In regard to the dismissal on forum non conveniens grounds, the court held that the district court committed material legal errors at each step of its analysis. The court explained that there was far too little in this record to designate Hungary as a more convenient forum than the one chosen by the Survivors. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Simon v. Republic of Hungary" on Justia Law

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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