Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of claims brought in 2010 against the Republic of Turkey and two Turkish national banks, seeking compensation for property taken from plaintiffs' ancestors during the Armenian Genocide. The panel affirmed the judgment of the district court, because plaintiffs' claims, filed almost a century after the Armenian Genocide, were time-barred. California previously adopted a statute in 2006 to provide that any limitations period for suits arising out of the Armenian Genocide would not expire until December 31, 2016. Under this statute, plaintiffs' claims were timely filed. However, the panel subsequently held that the California law was unconstitutional. Therefore, plaintiffs' claims were facially time-barred in the absence of the statute. View "Bakalian v. Central Bank of the Republic of Turkey" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit held that the parents of a U.S. citizen killed during a military operation conducted by a foreign nation abroad may not sue the foreign official responsible for the operation in federal court on different theories of wrongful death claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act. The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action and held that defendant was entitled to foreign official immunity where his acts were performed in his official capacity, where the sovereign government has ratified his conduct, and where the U.S. Department of State has asked the judiciary to grant him foreign official immunity. The panel need not decide the level of deference owed to the State Department's suggestion of immunity in this case, because even if the suggestion of immunity is afforded "substantial weight" rather than "absolute deference," defendant would still be entitled to immunity. The panel explained that exercising jurisdiction over defendant would be to enforce a rule of law against the sovereign state of Israel, and that defendant would therefore be entitled to common-law foreign sovereign immunity. Even if defendant was entitled to common law immunity, the panel held that Congress has abrogated common law foreign official immunity via the TVPA. View "Dogan v. Barak" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of a petition for habeas corpus relief where petitioner challenged an order certifying him as extraditable to the Czech Republic in order for him to serve a sentence for a Czech conviction for attempted extortion. The panel agreed with the Sixth Circuit and nearly every district court that has considered the applicability of 18 U.S.C. 3196 that, in the absence of a treaty authorization or prohibition, the statute confers discretion on the U.S. Department of State to seek extradition of U.S. citizens. The panel also agreed with the district court that petitioner's Czech conviction for attempted extortion qualifies as an extraditable offense and thus the district court properly denied habeas relief. View "United States v. Knotek" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Tri Marine in Washington state court, seeking to recover additional expenses for a knee injury he experienced as a deck hand on one of Tri Marine's vessels. Tri Marine then removed the case to federal court and moved to confirm an order issued by an arbitrator in the Philippines as a foreign arbitral award. The district court denied plaintiff's motion to remand, confirmed the order, and dismissed the action. The Ninth Circuit held that the parties' free-floating settlement agreement and order did not transform into an arbitral award simply because the parties convened with an arbitrator. The panel evaluated the award by looking to its essence and found several unique aspects of these proceedings that lead it to concluded that the order was not an arbitral award. In this case, there was no outstanding dispute to arbitrate by the time plaintiff and Tri Marine sat down with the arbitrator as the parties had already reached a settlement; the purported arbitration in no way followed the parties' prior agreements to arbitrate; and the procedure here deviated completely from typical Philippine procedures. The panel reversed in part and vacated in part, remanding for the district court to assess jurisdiction under the Convention Act and venue, as well as any defenses. View "Castro v. Tri Marine Fish Co." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' class action against cocoa bean companies, alleging the aiding and abetting of child slave labor that took place in the United States under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS). Plaintiffs are former child slaves who were forced to work on cocoa farms in the Ivory Coast. The district court dismissed the complaint based on its conclusion that the complaint sought an impermissible extraterritorial application of the ATS. In light of Jesner v. Arab Bank, 138 S. Ct. 1386 (2018), which changed the legal landscape on which plaintiffs constructed their case, the panel remanded to allow plaintiffs to amend their complaint to specify whether aiding and abetting conduct that took place in the United States is attributable to the domestic corporations. The panel held that the aiding and abetting conduct comes within the focus of the ATS and the ATS’s focus on torts committed in violation of the law of nations. The panel also held that a narrow set of specific domestic conduct was relevant to the ATS's focus. In this case, plaintiffs have alleged that defendants funded child slavery practices in the Ivory Coast. Specifically, plaintiffs alleged that defendants provided personal spending money outside the ordinary business contract and the money was given with the purpose of maintaining ongoing relations with the farms so that defendants could continue receiving cocoa at a price that would not be obtainable without child slave labor. Furthermore, defendants had employees from their United States headquarters regularly inspect operations in the Ivory Coast and report back to the United States offices, where these financing decisions or arrangements originated. View "Doe v. Nestle, S.A." on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of summary judgment to the museum in an action brought by plaintiff to recover artwork that was taken by the Nazis from her faither-in-law. The panel held that the Dutch government's transfer of the paintings and its later decisions about the conveyance were "sovereign acts" requiring application of the act of state doctrine. The panel applied the act of state doctrine here, because the relief sought by plaintiff would necessitate the court's declaring invalid at least three official acts of the Dutch government performed within its own territory. The panel also held that exceptions to the act of state doctrine did not apply and the policies underlying the doctrine supported its application in this case. View "Von Saher v. Norton Simon Museum of Art at Pasadena" on Justia Law

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The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law to Jay-Z and other defendants in an action brought by the heir to the Egyptian composer Baligh Hamdy, alleging copyright infringement in the song Khosara. Jay-Z used a sample from the arrangement in the background music to his single Big Pimpin'. The panel held that the heir to Hamdy's copyright may not sue Jay-Z for infringement based solely on the fact that Egyptian law recognizes an inalienable "moral right" of the author to object to offensive uses of a copyrighted work. The panel held: (1) that Egyptian law recognizes a transferable economic right to prepare derivative works; (2) that the moral rights the heir retained by operation of Egyptian law were not enforceable in U.S. federal court; and (3) that, even if they were, the heir has not complied with the compensation requirement of Egyptian law, which did not provide for his requested money damages, and which provided for only injunctive relief from an Egyptian court. View "Fahmy v. Jay-Z" on Justia Law

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Midbrook filed suit seeking recognition of an Amsterdam Court of Appeals judgment under Washington's Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgments Recognition Act (UFCMJRA). The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment for Midbrook and denied Holland America's discovery request under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(d). The panel held that the commentary and prefatory note to the UFCMJRA demonstrate that under section 4(c)(8), courts ask only whether the party resisting judgment "was denied fundamental fairness in the particular proceedings leading to the foreign-country judgment," not whether the foreign proceedings literally conformed to the requirements of due process under our own Constitution. UFCMJRA 4 cmt. 12. The panel explained that it was not necessary to decide whether process accorded to Midbrook also passed muster under American standards of due process. The panel held that the Dutch courts' treatment of Holland America's discovery requests was a mere "procedural difference" that was insufficient to establish that the Dutch proceedings were fundamentally unfair; Holland America was not denied due process when the Amsterdam Court of Appeal overturned the Alkmaar District Court's factual finding denying the existence of the parties' alleged 1999 settlement agreement; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Holland America's motion for additional discovery. View "Midbrook Flowerbulbs Holland v. Holland America Bulb Farms" on Justia Law

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The Republic of the Marshall Islands filed suit seeking a declaration that the United States breached its obligations pursuant to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and ordering the United States to engage in good-faith negotiations. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the suit, holding that the claims were nonjusticiable. Article VI of the Treaty was not directly enforceable in federal court, the Marshall Islands' asserted injuries were not redressable, and the claims raised nonjusticiable political questions. The panel noted that, at bottom, the suit was doomed because diplomatic negotiations among parties to the Treaty fell quintessentially within the realm of the executive, not the judiciary. View "Republic of the Marshall Islands v. United States" on Justia Law

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The zone of special danger doctrine can apply to local nationals working in their home countries under employment contracts covered by the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act, as extended by the Defense Base Act (DBA). The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review of a decision of the United States Department of Labor's Benefits Review Board (BRB) awarding disability benefits, pursuant to the DBA, to Edwin Jentil. Jentil was employed by a U.S. government contractor when he was injured. The panel held that the ALJ and BRB did not commit legal error by applying the zone of special danger doctrine to Jetnil. In this case, substantial evidence supported the ALJ and BRB's decision that Jetnil was entitled to disability benefits because his injury arose out of the zone of special danger associated with his employment. View "Chugach Management Services v. Jetnil" on Justia Law