Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
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This case was brought by the plaintiffs-appellants, David Cassirer, the Estate of Ava Cassirer, and the United Jewish Federation of San Diego County, against the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation, an instrumentality of the Kingdom of Spain. The case centers around a painting by French Impressionist Camille Pissarro, which was stolen by the Nazis in 1939 Germany. The painting eventually came into the possession of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection, which has publicly displayed it in Madrid, Spain since 1993. When the plaintiffs learned of the painting's location in 2000, they petitioned for its return, but were denied, leading to the present lawsuit filed in 2005.The case hinged on whether Spanish or California law should govern the determination of ownership of the painting. Under Spanish law, the defendant would retain the painting, having gained prescriptive title through possession for over three years in good faith. Under California law, the plaintiffs would recover the painting, as a thief cannot pass good title to stolen property.The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, on remand from the United States Supreme Court, applied California’s three-step “governmental interest analysis” for choice-of-law disputes. The court found that there was a true conflict between the laws of Spain and California, and that each jurisdiction had a legitimate interest in applying its laws to the case. The court then resolved the conflict by applying the law of the jurisdiction whose governmental interests would be more impaired if its law were not applied. The court concluded that Spain’s governmental interests would be more impaired by the application of California law than would California’s governmental interests be impaired by the application of Spanish law. Thus, Spanish law applied, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection had gained prescriptive title to the painting. The court affirmed the district court’s judgment in favor of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection. View "CASSIRER V. THYSSEN-BORNEMISZA COLLECTION" on Justia Law

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Defendant, a Syrian national, appealed his conviction after a jury trial for participating in a conspiracy that targeted U.S. military personnel and property in Iraq. The jury delivered a mixed verdict on the six-count indictment. It convicted Defendant for conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction (Count One), conspiring to damage U.S. government property (Count Two), and conspiring to possess a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence and aiding and abetting the same (Counts Three and Four). The jury acquitted Defendant of conspiring to murder Americans (Count Five) and providing material support to terrorists (Count Six).   The Ninth Circuit affirmed in part and reversed in part the conviction. Reversing in part, the panel agreed with the parties that Defendant’s convictions on Counts Three and Four, for conspiring to possess a destructive device in furtherance of a crime of violence and aiding and abetting the same, could not stand after the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Davis, 139 S. Ct. 2319 (2019). On those counts, the panel remanded with direction to the district court to vacate the convictions. The panel affirmed Defendant’s convictions on Counts One and Two for conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction and conspiring to damage U.S. Government property by means of an explosive. As to Count Two, the panel held that 18 U.S.C. Section 844(f) and (n) applied to Defendant’s extraterritorial conduct. The panel held that the presumption against extraterritoriality applies to criminal statutes as well as to civil statutes. View "USA V. AHMED ALAHMEDALABDALOKLAH" on Justia Law

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After Defendant was indicted for various offenses arising out of the export of semiconductors to the People’s Republic of China, a jury returned guilty verdicts on all counts. The district court subsequently entered a judgment of acquittal on one count. The government appealed that acquittal, and Defendant appealed his convictions on the other counts.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the judgment of acquittal, affirmed Defendant’s other convictions, and remanded. The court explained that The Export Administration Regulations (EARs), administered by the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security, impose controls on certain exports to “serve the national security, foreign policy, nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other interests of the United States.” After the expiration of the Export Administration Act of 1979, the EARs were continued pursuant to Executive Order 13,222, which declared a national emergency under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). The panel rejected Shih’s argument that Executive Order 13,222 was an improper invocation of presidential authority. The panel also rejected Defendant’s argument and argued that IEEPA violates the nondelegation doctrine. The panel held that the district court erred in concluding that this term requires post-manufacture, pre-export testing. The panel therefore ordered the reinstatement of the jury verdict on that count. Defendant argued that the district court erred by failing to give his proposed jury instruction on the fundamental research exemption. The panel rejected this argument because other instructions given in their entirety cover the defense theory. The panel found no error in the district court’s evidentiary rulings because they were well within the district court’s discretion. View "USA V. YI-CHI SHIH" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are practitioners of Falun Gong, a religion originating in China in the 1990s. They allege that they or family members are victims of human rights abuses committed by the Chinese Communist Party and Chinese government officials. The alleged abuses, Plaintiffs contend, were enabled by the technological assistance of Defendants, U.S. corporation Cisco Systems, Inc., and two Cisco executives (collectively, “Cisco”). Plaintiffs initiated this lawsuit more than a decade ago, alleging that Cisco aided and abetted or conspired with Chinese officials in violation of the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”), the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 (“TVPA”), and other federal and state laws. The district court dismissed Plaintiffs’ claims under the ATS, ruling that Plaintiffs did not allege conduct sufficient to satisfy the standard for aiding and abetting liability.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s dismissal of Plaintiffs’ claims under the Alien Tort Statute against the Cisco executives; reversed the dismissal of Plaintiffs’ Alien Tort Statute claims against corporate defendant Cisco; reversed the dismissal of one Plaintiff’s claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act against the Cisco executives; and remanded for further proceedings. The panel held that under Nestle USA, Inc. v. Doe, 141 S. Ct. 1931 (2021), corporations may be held liable under the ATS. The panel held that Plaintiffs’ allegations against Cisco were sufficient to meet the applicable aiding and abetting standard. Recognizing that the ATS does not apply extraterritorially, the panel held that this case involved a permissible domestic application of the ATS against Cisco because much of the corporation’s alleged conduct constituting aiding and abetting occurred in the United States. View "DOE I, ET AL V. CISCO SYSTEMS, INC., ET AL" on Justia Law

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The United States (“the Government”) initiated a civil forfeiture suit in federal district court against a $380 million arbitration award fund, the majority of which is held in the United Kingdom. The fund belongs to PetroSaudi Oil Services (Venezuela) Ltd. (“PetroSaudi”), a private oil company incorporated in Barbados. PetroSaudi won the award in an arbitration proceeding against Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (“PDVSA”), a Venezuelan state energy company. The portion of the fund held in the United Kingdom (“the fund”) is held in an account controlled by the High Court of England and Wales (“the High Court”). The Government seeks forfeiture of the fund on the ground that it derives from proceeds of an illegal scheme to steal one billion dollars from the Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (“1MDB”). PetroSaudi challenged two orders entered by the district court.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s interlocutory orders. The panel held that PetroSaudi’s appeal from the district court’s protective order under 18 U.S.C. Section 983 fell within this exception. Accordingly, the court had jurisdiction to consider the appeals of the two orders. The panel concluded that the sovereign immunity of the United Kingdom, as codified in the FSIA, did not protect the arbitration award fund from the two orders issued by the district court. The panel held that because the district court had in rem jurisdiction over the fund, it did not need in personam jurisdiction over PetroSaudi to issue an order preserving the fund. View "USA V. PETROSAUDI OIL SERV. (VENEZUELA) LTD., ET AL" on Justia Law

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In an action brought by the Cassirer family under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, seeking the return of a Pissarro painting stolen by the Nazis and now in the possession of Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation (TBC), an entity created and controlled by the Kingdom of Spain, the Ninth Circuit certified to the California Supreme Court the following question concerning the third step in California’s governmental interest choice-of-law test: Whether, under a comparative impairment analysis, California’s or Spain’s interest is more impaired if California’s rule that a person may not acquire title to a stolen item of personal property (because a thief cannot pass good title, and California has not adopted the doctrine of adverse possession for personal property), were subordinated to Spain’s rule that a person may obtain title to stolen property by adverse possession.   Applying the first step of California’s governmental interest test, the panel concluded that the issue in question was a question of personal property law: whether TBC or the Cassirers own the painting; and the relevant law of the two jurisdictions of Spain and California was different. Applying the second step of the test, the panel concluded that a true conflict existed between Spanish and California law, meaning that each jurisdiction had a legitimate interest in the application of its law and policy. The third step of the test required application of the law of the jurisdiction whose interest would be more impaired if its law were not applied. View "DAVID CASSIRER, ET AL V. THYSSEN-BORNEMISZA COLLECTION" on Justia Law

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In its prior decision, the Ninth Circuit rejected Optional’s contention that DAS should be held in contempt for allegedly failing to comply with the May 2013 final judgment that was entered in these forfeiture proceedings. Optional filed a Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(a) motion to amend the May 2013 judgment to provide that (1) the $12.6 million that DAS had received “is impressed with a constructive trust in favor of Optional” and that (2) “DAS is directed to return that $12,602,824.09, with interest, to Optional’s counsel.” Optional argued that the May 2013 judgment’s failure to specifically award the $12.6 million to Optional was a “scrivener’s error” that should be corrected under Rule 60(a). The district court denied Optional’s Rule 60(a) motion.   The Ninth Circuit granted DAS Corporation’s motion to summarily affirm the district court’s decision. First, the panel denied Optional’s motion to strike DAS’s papers, which alleged that DAS was not a proper party in this matter. The panel held that this contention was frivolous. The panel held that DAS had standing to object to the proposed entry of a subsequent final judgment that, in its view, did not correctly reflect the court’s earlier rulings that finally disposed of the matter as to DAS. The panel granted DAS’s motion for summary affirmance. Finally, the panel held that despite being warned in the prior decision that its prior litigation maneuvers had gone too far, Optional filed this utterly meritless appeal and filed a frivolous motion contesting DAS’s right even to be heard in this appeal. View "OPTIONAL CAPITAL, INC. V. DAS CORPORATION, ET AL" on Justia Law

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Peru sought to extradite former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo Manrique (“Toledo”) to face criminal charges for allegedly accepting millions of dollars in bribes during his presidency. Peruvian prosecutors accused Toledo of money laundering and collusion in two Prosecutor’s Decisions, documents that summarize the ongoing investigation, and in an Acusación Fiscal, a document produced at the end of an investigation that lays out the crimes allegedly committed and supporting evidence. The Peruvian government presented initial and supplemental extradition requests to the United States, and following the usual procedures for extradition, a federal prosecutor filed a criminal complaint against Toledo. A United States magistrate judge certified the extradition to the State Department. Toledo petitioned for a writ of habeas corpus petition, which the district court denied, and Toledo appealed.   The Ninth Circuit denied Petitioner’s motion to stay his extradition proceeding. The panel weighed the four factors that guide consideration of whether to issue a stay. First, irreparable injury is obvious. Once extradited, Toledo’s appeal will be moot. Second, Toledo has not shown a likelihood of success on the merits on any of his three arguments. The panel wrote that the third and fourth factors— whether the issuance of a stay would substantially injure the other parties and the public interest—merge when the Government is the opposing party. The panel reaffirmed that the public interest will be served by the United States complying with a valid extradition application because proper compliance promotes relations between the two countries and enhances efforts to establish an international rule of law and order. View "ALEJANDRO MANRIQUE V. MARK KOLC" on Justia Law

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This is an international child custody dispute between Respondent and Petitioner over their minor children. While the family was residing in Germany, Respondent took the children to the United States and refused to return them. The Hague Convention generally requires children to be returned to the state of habitual residence so that the country’s courts may adjudicate the merits of any custody disputes. The Ninth Circuit previously vacated and remanded the district court’s first order to return the children to Germany. Because the Supreme Court issued its decision in Golan while the court was considering Respondent’s appeal of the second return order, the court also remanded that order for the district court’s reconsideration. The district court then granted the petition a third time.   The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s order granting, on a second remand, Petitioner’s petition against Respondent for the return, pursuant to the Hague Convention, of the parties’ two children to Germany. Agreeing with other circuits, the panel held that, in cases governed by the Hague Convention, the district court has discretion as to whether to conduct an evidentiary hearing following remand and must exercise that discretion consistent with the Convention. The panel held that, on the second remand, the district court did not abuse its discretion in declining to hold a third evidentiary hearing when the factual record was fully developed. The panel held that, in making determinations about German procedural issues, the district court neither abused its discretion nor violated Respondent’s due process rights by communicating with the State Department and, through it, the German Central Authority View "BOGDAN RADU V. PERSEPHONE JOHNSON SHON" on Justia Law

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The photographer Christian Zervos created the Zervos Catalogue of the works of Pablo Picasso, which was originally published under the label of Cahiers d’Art. In 1979, Sicre de Fontbrune acquired the rights for the business capital of Cahiers d’Art. Alan Wofsy and Alan Wofsy & Associates (collectively “Wofsy”) produced a series of books, titled “The Picasso Project,” that contained reproductions of photographs from the Zervos Catalogue.   The French judgment found that Wofsy had violated an astreinte – a French legal device that imposed money damages for the continued use of copyrighted photographs of Pablo Picasso’s works. Sicre de Fontbrune had obtained hat astreintre as a form of relief in a 2001 French judgment finding that the photographs’ copyrights were infringed. The district court granted summary judgment for Wofsy based on a defense to recognition under California’s Uniform Foreign-Country Money Judgment Recognition Act, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code Sections 1713-1725, namely, the defense that the French judgment was repugnant to United States public policy protecting free expression.   The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court’s summary judgment entered for Defendants. The court held that in international diversity cases, such as this one, the enforceability of foreign judgments is generally governed by the law of the state in which enforcement is sought; and the California Recognition Act governed. Further, the court held that Wofsy was not entitled to summary judgment based on the public policy defense. No other ground for nonrecognition at issue in this appeal supplied an alternative basis for affirming the judgment. View "VINCENT DE FONTBRUNE V. ALAN WOFSY" on Justia Law