Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in US Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit
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In the 1990s, Aldossari’s company, Trans Gulf, entered into an agreement in Saudi Arabia with three other businesses to establish and operate an oil refinery in Saint Lucia, a Caribbean island nation. Crude oil was to be sourced from the Saudi government or its national oil company, Saudi Aramco. The project went forward, but, Aldossari alleged, the owners of the three contract counterparties – one of whom became the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia –refused to pay Trans Gulf its share of the proceeds. Two decades later, the soon-to-be Crown Prince promised to pay Aldossari but never did. Aldossari, transferred his rights to his minor son, a U.S. citizen.The federal district court dismissed Aldossari’s subsequent tort and contract claims. The Third Circuit affirmed, holding that dismissal of the claims against a deceased defendant was proper because Aldossari failed to allege any basis for exercising subject-matter jurisdiction over those claims. As for the surviving defendants, the lack of any meaningful ties between those defendants and the United States in Aldossari’s claims defeats his effort to sue them in the U.S. The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act precludes subject-matter jurisdiction over the claims against Saudi Arabia and Saudi Aramco. The case was remanded with directions to dismiss without prejudice since none of the dispositive rulings reach the merits. View "Aldossari v. Ripp" on Justia Law

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Venezuela expropriated mining rights owned by Crystallex, a Canadian mining company. After prevailing in an arbitration proceeding, Crystallex obtained a $1.4 billion judgment. In an execution action, Crystallex seeks to auction shares owned by Venezuela’s state-owned energy company, PDVS, to satisfy its judgment against Venezuel, including PDVSA’s shares in PDVH, a Delaware holding company that owns CITGO, a U.S. petroleum refiner (one of PDVSA’s most important U.S. assets). The district court held that it had jurisdiction to enforce the judgment against Venezuela and that PDVSA could not assert sovereign immunity as a defense and ordered PDVH’s registered agent to retain the stock until further order. In an earlier appeal, the Third Circuit affirmed.Political conditions changed in Venezuela. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which administers U.S. economic sanctions, prohibited the transfer of assets without OFAC approval. On remand, PDVSA, PDVH as the garnishee, and CITGO asked the district court to quash the writ of attachment. The United States filed a statement of interest urging the court not to authorize a contingent sale of the shares.The district court refused to quash the attachment and decided “to set up the sales procedures and then to follow them to the maximum extent that can be accomplished without a specific license from OFAC,” including appointing a special master. The Third Circuit dismissed an appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The district court has not reached a final decision. 28 U.S.C. 1291. View "Crystallex International Corp v. Bolivarian Republic of Venezue" on Justia Law

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Vastardis, a citizen of Greece and Chief Engineer onboard the Liberian-registered petroleum tanker, Evridiki, was convicted of offenses related to maritime pollution: failing to maintain an accurate Oil Record Book for several weeks, 33 U.S.C. 1908(a); falsifying high-seas Oil Record Book entries, Sarbanes-Oxley Act, 18 U.S.C. 1519; obstructing justice in the Coast Guard’s investigation of the Evridiki, 18 U.S.C. 1505; and making false statements, 18 U.S.C. 1001. The district court imposed a $7,500 fine, a $400 special assessment, and three years’ probation. Vastardis was barred from entering or applying for visas to enter the U.S.The Third Circuit affirmed the convictions but vacated the portion of the sentence that precludes Vastardis from entering the U.S. while under court supervision. The deception at issue involved falsely documenting bilge water discharges that occurred when the Evridiki was on the high seas and were only discovered when the Evridiki was docked in the Delaware Bay port. Vastardis cannot be convicted in a U.S. court for crimes occurring in international waters, but the convictions here were based on the presence of inaccurate records in U.S. waters, so the district court had subject matter jurisdiction even though the actual entries may have been made beyond U.S. jurisdiction while on the high seas. View "United States v. Vastardis" on Justia Law

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Jabateh was a rebel commander during the Liberian civil war. He later fled to the United States seeking asylum. His conduct in Liberia, characterized by brazen violence and wanton atrocities, made honest immigration application impossible. He concealed his crimes and portrayed himself as a persecuted victim. Jabateh’s fraud succeeded for almost 20 years.In 2016, Jabateh was charged with the fraud in his immigration documents, 18 U.S.C. 1546(a) and perjury, 18 U.S.C. 1621. The five-year limitations period for misconduct related to Jabateh's 2001 application for permanent residency had passed, leaving only Jabateh’s oral responses in a 2011 Interview affirming his answer of “no” to questions related to genocide and misrepresentations during his immigration applications. The district court noted “the force of the prosecution’s trial evidence,” establishing that Jabateh personally committed or ordered his troops to commit murder, enslavement, rape, and torture “because of race, religion, nationality, ethnic origin or political opinion.”The Third Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence and to Jabateh’s 360-month sentence. The court acknowledged that section 1546(a) criminalizes fraud in immigration documents and that Jabateh was not charged with fraud in his immigration documents, only with orally lying about those documents. Jabateh, however, failed to raise this argument at trial. “Given the novelty of the interpretative question, and the lack of persuasive" guidance, the court declined to hold that this reading of section 1546(a) meets the stringent standards for “plain error” reversal. View "United States v. Jabateh" on Justia Law

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Schneider, a longtime Hay employee, was elevated to CEO in 2001. Hay terminated Schneider in 2003 for “good cause.” Schneider sued in the Labor Court of Germany and in the Netherlands. The Dutch courts found that under Dutch law there had been no valid resolution approving Schneider’s termination. In 2012, the German trial court dismissed Schneider’s claims. The German Higher Regional Court reversed in part in 2014, giving preclusive effect to the Dutch court’s findings concerning Schneider’s contract. The Hay entities were required to pay Schneider over $13 million.In 2004, Hay filed suit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, alleging nine causes of action with varying degrees of overlap with the German litigation. After the German proceedings became final, the district court lifted a stay and granted Schneider summary judgment, holding that Hay’s claims were precluded by the German judgment, assuming that the relevant inquiry was whether Hay could have brought its claims as counterclaims in the German litigation.The Third Circuit reversed in part. Under Pennsylvania preclusion law, the correct question is whether Hay was required to bring its claims as counterclaims in the German litigation. Under German law, Hay was not required to plead these claims as counterclaims in the German litigation. Since Hay’s contract assignment claim seeks to functionally undo the German litigation, however, the court affirmed summary judgment on that claim. View "Hay Group Management Inc v. Schneider" on Justia Law

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Crystallex, a Canadian gold mining company, invested hundreds of millions of dollars to develop gold deposits in Venezuela, which then expropriated those deposits and transferred them to its state-owned oil company, PDVSA. To seek redress, Crystallex invoked a bilateral investment treaty between Canada and Venezuela to file for arbitration before the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes. The arbitration occurred in Washington, D.C., and the panel awarded Crystallex $1.2 billion, plus interest. The district court confirmed that award and issued a $1.4 billion federal judgment. Unable to identify Venezuelan-held commercial assets in the U.S. that it could lawfully seize, Crystallex sought to attach PDVSA’s shares in PDVH, its wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary. PDVH is the holding company for CITGO, a Delaware Corporation. The attachment suit is governed by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1602–1611. Under federal common law, a judgment creditor of a foreign sovereign may look to the sovereign’s instrumentality for satisfaction when it is “so extensively controlled by its owner that a relationship of principal and agent is created.” The district court concluded and the Third Circuit affirmed that Venezuela’s control over PDVSA was sufficient to allow Crystallex to attach PDVSA’s shares of PDVH. The court rejected jurisdictional and equitable objections and a claim that PDVSA’s “tangential role” in the dispute precludes execution. View "Crystallex International Corp v. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela" on Justia Law

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H.C. was born in 2010. His parents separated in 2011 and divorced in 2014. Wife claims that violence was a factor but did not raise that issue in the divorce proceedings. Husband denies those allegations. In 2013, wife began a relationship with her childhood acquaintance, “Deleon,” who resided in New Jersey. She obtained a visa for H.C. to travel to the U.S. with husband’s consent. She visited Deleon by herself and married him in 2014. She did not tell husband about the marriage but indicated that she intended to bring H.C. to the U.S.to live; he refused to consent. Wife filed a domestic violence complaint in Guatemala and obtained a TRO. She took H.C. to the U.S., then sent a message informing husband she was there with H.C. She did not disclose their address “[o]ut of fear.” Husband filed an Application for Return of the Child with the Guatemala Central Authority, which forwarded that application to the U.S. State Department. About 16 months later, having discovered that the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction required him to file where H.C. lived, he filed a Petition in New Jersey. The Third Circuit affirmed the denial of relief under the Convention and the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA). While ICARA’s one-year filing requirement is not subject to tolling, the delay in filing did not eliminate husband’s remedies under the Convention; the court recognized but declined to exercise its independent authority to order H.C.’s return. There was sufficient evidence that H.C. was well settled in the U.S. View "Castellanos-Monzon v. De La Roca" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs founded ChinaWhys, which assists foreign companies doing business in China with American anti-bribery regulations compliance. Plaintiffs allege that the GSK Defendants engaged in bribery in China, with the approval of Reilly, the CEO of GSK China. In 2011, a whistleblower sent Chinese regulators correspondence accusing GSK of bribery. Defendants tried to uncover the whistleblower’s identity. Plaintiffs met with Reilly. According to Plaintiffs, GSK China representatives stated they believed Shi, a GSK China employee who had been fired, was orchestrating a “smear campaign.” ChinaWhys agreed to investigate Shi under an agreement to be governed by Chinese law, with all disputes subject to arbitration in China. Plaintiffs were arrested, convicted, imprisoned, and deported from China. Reilly was convicted of bribing physicians and was also imprisoned and deported. The Chinese government fined GSK $492 million for its bribery practices; GSK entered a settlement agreement with the U.S. SEC. Plaintiffs sued under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, 18 U.S.C. 1961–1968, contending that their business was “destroyed and their prospective business ventures eviscerated” as a result of Defendants’ misconduct. RICO creates a private right of action for a plaintiff injured in his business or property as a result of prohibited conduct; for racketeering activity committed abroad, section 1964(c)’s private right of action requires that the plaintiff “allege and prove a domestic injury to its business or property.” The Third Circuit held that Plaintiffs did not plead sufficient facts to establish that they suffered a domestic injury under section 1964(c). View "Humphrey v. GlaxoSmithKline PLC" on Justia Law

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Crystallex, a Canadian gold producer, owned the rights to Venezuela's Las Cristinas gold reserve. In 2011, Venezuela nationalized its gold mines and expropriated Crystallex’s rights. Crystallex initiated arbitration before the World Bank, claiming that Venezuela had violated a bilateral investment treaty with Canada. Venezuela was the sole defendant. The arbitrators found that Venezuela had breached the treaty and awarded Crystallex $1.202 billion. The district court confirmed the award (Federal Arbitration Act, 9 U.S.C. 1). Venezuela owns 100% of Petróleos de Venezuela, (PDVSA). PDVSA is allegedly Venezuela’s alter ego, a “national oil company through which Venezuela implements government policies.” PDVSA owns 100% of PDVH, which owns 100% of CITGO Holding, which owns 100% of CITGO Petroleum (Delaware corporations). Crystallex sued PDVH in Delaware, alleging that PDVH had violated the Delaware Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act’s (DUFTA) prohibition against fraudulent transfers. The complaint alleged Venezuela orchestrated a series of debt offerings and asset transfers among PDVSA, PDVH, CITGO Holding, and CITGO Petroleum so that $2.8 billion in “dividends” ended up with PDVSA (Venezuela) outside the U.S. and could not be reached by Venezuela’s creditors. The court denied PDVH’s motion to dismiss, concluding that there had been a transfer “by a debtor.” The Third Circuit reversed, stating that it did not condone the debtor’s actions but that a transfer by a non-debtor (PDVH) cannot be a “fraudulent transfer” under DUFTA. View "Crystallex International Corp v. Petroleos de Venezuela SA" on Justia Law

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The Board of Immigration Appeals found that Uddin, a citizen of Bangladesh, was ineligible for withholding of removal because he was a member of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP). The Board found that the BNP qualified as a Tier III terrorist organization under the “terrorism bar,” 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(3)(B)(vi)(III). The Third Circuit denied relief with respect to the Board’s ruling dismissing Uddin’s Convention Against Torture claim but remanded his withholding of removal claim. The Board pointed to terrorist acts by BNP members but it did not find that BNP leadership authorized any of the terrorist acts committed by party members. The court joined the reasoning of the Seventh Circuit and the Board in many of its own opinions by holding that unless the agency finds that party leaders authorized terrorist acts committed by its members, an entity such as the BNP cannot be deemed a Tier III terrorist organization. View "Uddin v. Attorney General United States" on Justia Law