Justia International Law Opinion Summaries
Golan v. Saada
Golan, a U.S. citizen, married Saada, an Italian citizen, in Italy, where, in 2016, they had a son, B. In 2018, Golan flew to the United States and moved into a domestic violence shelter with B. Saada sought an order returning B. to Italy under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which requires that a child be returned to the child’s country of habitual residence upon a finding that the child has been wrongfully removed to or retained unless the authority finds that return would expose the child to a “grave risk” of “physical or psychological harm or otherwise place the child in an intolerable situation.” The district court concluded that B. would face a grave risk of harm if returned to Italy, given evidence that Saada had abused Golan but ordered B. returned to Italy, applying Second Circuit precedent obligating it to “examine the full range of options that might make possible the safe return of a child” and concluding that ameliorative measures could reduce the risk to B. Following a remand, the Second Circuit affirmed.The Supreme Court vacated. A court is not categorically required to examine all possible ameliorative measures before denying a Hague Convention petition for the return of a child to a foreign country once the court has found that return would expose the child to a grave risk of harm. The Second Circuit’s rule, imposing an atextual, categorical requirement that courts consider all possible ameliorative measures in exercising discretion under the Convention, improperly elevated return above the Convention’s other objectives. A court reasonably may decline to consider ameliorative measures that have not been raised by the parties, are unworkable, draw the court into determinations properly resolved in custodial proceedings, or risk overly prolonging return proceedings. View "Golan v. Saada" on Justia Law
ZF Automotive U. S., Inc. v. Luxshare, Ltd.
Parties involved in arbitration proceedings abroad sought discovery in the U.S. under 28 U.S.C. 1782(a), which authorizes a district court to order the production of evidence “for use in a proceeding in a foreign or international tribunal.” One case, a contract dispute between private parties, was proceeding under the Arbitration Rules of the German Institution of Arbitration and involves a private dispute-resolution organization. The second case is proceeding against Lithuania before an ad hoc arbitration panel, in accordance with the Arbitration Rules of the U.N. Commission on International Trade Law.The Supreme Court held that the parties are not entitled to discovery. Only a governmental or intergovernmental adjudicative body constitutes a “foreign or international tribunal” under 28 U.S.C. 1782; the bodies at issue do not qualify. While a “tribunal” need not be a formal “court,” attached to the modifiers “foreign or international,” the phrase is best understood to refer to an adjudicative body that exercises governmental authority. The animating purpose of section 1782 is comity: Permitting federal courts to assist foreign and international governmental bodies promotes respect for foreign governments and encourages reciprocal assistance. Extending section 1782 to include private bodies would be in significant tension with the Federal Arbitration Act, which governs domestic arbitration; section 1782 permits much broader discovery than the FAA.The Court acknowledged that the arbitration panel involving Lithuania presents a harder question. The option to arbitrate is contained in an international treaty rather than a private contract but the two nations involved did not intend that an ad hoc panel exercise governmental authority. View "ZF Automotive U. S., Inc. v. Luxshare, Ltd." on Justia Law
KEO RATHA V. PHATTHANA SEAFOOD CO., LTD.
Plaintiffs alleged that they were trafficked into Thailand and subjected to forced labor at seafood processing factories. Plaintiffs allege that Thai companies perpetrated these offenses and that companies present in the United States knowingly benefitted from their forced labor. Plaintiffs brought their claims under 18 U.S.C. Section 1595, the civil remedy provision of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (“TVPA”). The Ninth Circuit filed (1) an order amending its opinion and denying on behalf of the court a petition for rehearing en banc; and (2) an amended opinion affirming the district court’s summary judgment in favor of Defendants. The court held that Plaintiffs did not present a triable issue. The court reasoned that 18 U.S.C. Section 1596 authorizes extraterritorial application of the TVPRA for specific criminal trafficking offenses. The court assumed without deciding that Section 1595 permits a private cause of action for extraterritorial violations of the substantive provisions listed in Section 1596 so long as the section's other requirements are satisfied. As to the two foreign Defendants, the court held that Plaintiffs’ claims failed because the company was not “present in the United States” at any time relevant to this lawsuit as Section 1596 requires. The court rejected Plaintiffs’ agency relationship or joint venture argument. As to the other Defendants, the court held that Plaintiffs failed to produce evidence establishing a triable issue of Defendants’ liability under Section 1595 on a theory that they knowingly benefitted from alleged human trafficking and forced labor abuses, financially and by accessing a steady stream of imported seafood. View "KEO RATHA V. PHATTHANA SEAFOOD CO., LTD." on Justia Law
El Omari v. The International Criminal Police Organization
Plaintiff filed an action against the International Criminal Police Organization (“Interpol”), charging negligent infliction of emotional distress and violation of his right to due process of law under the New York State Constitution after Interpol refused to delete a so-called “red notice” identifying Plaintiff as a convicted criminal in the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”). The district court granted Interpol’s motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, holding that Interpol is a protected organization under the International Organizations Immunities Act (“IOIA”), 22 U.S.C. Sections 288-288l, and thus enjoys the same immunity from suit normally enjoyed by foreign sovereigns. The Second Circuit affirmed concluding that the term “public international organizations” as used in 22 U.S.C. Section 288 includes any international organization that is composed of governments as its members, regardless of whether it has been formed by international treaty. Further, the court found that Interpol qualifies as a “public international organization” for the purposes of 22 U.S.C. Section 288 because its members are official government actors whose involvement is subject to control by participating nations. Next, the Headquarters Agreement between Interpol and the Government of France does not constitute an immunity waiver that would permit the present suit in a United States district court. Finally, the district court did not abuse its discretion by denying Plaintiff’s request for jurisdictional discovery prior to dismissal. View "El Omari v. The International Criminal Police Organization" on Justia Law
Global Marine Exploration, Inc., v. Republic of France
Global Marine Exploration, Inc. (“GME”), conducts marine salvage activities and discovers historic shipwreck sites in Florida’s coastal waters. GME entered into authorization agreements with the Florida Department of State (“FDOS”), to conduct salvage activities in Florida coastal wates. GME learned that FDOS was in contact with the Republic of France to recover the shipwreck sites. GME sued France, alleging claims for an in personam lien award, unjust enrichment, misappropriation of trade secret information, and interference with its rights and relations. France moved to dismiss GME’s amended complaint under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1), arguing that the district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”). The district court agreed with France, finding that the FSIA’s commercial activity exception did not apply, and dismissed GME’s claims. The Eleventh Circuit reversed the district court’s Rule 12(b)(1) dismissal and concluded that that the FSIA’s commercial activity exception applies and therefore the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over GME’s suit against France. The court reasoned that the nature of France’s activities here are commercial under the FSIA. France performed actions and entered into agreements with FDOS and others in connection with the shipwreck recovery project. These actions—fundraising, contracting with organizations and businesses to carry out excavations of shipwreck sites, and overseeing the logistics of the project—are commercial in nature and of the type negotiable among private parties. Further, FSIA’s commercial activity exception to foreign sovereign immunity applies because GME’s action is “based upon” France’s commercial activity in the United States. View "Global Marine Exploration, Inc., v. Republic of France" on Justia Law
United States v. Rife
In 2012, Rife moved from Kentucky to Cambodia, took a position as an elementary school teacher, began a relationship with a Cambodian woman, and adopted a young Cambodian girl. For six years, Rife lived and worked exclusively in Cambodia, obtaining annual “Extension of Stay” temporary visas through his U.S. passport. Rife did not visit the U.S. during that period but maintained a bank account and property in Kentucky. In 2018, Cambodian authorities investigated allegations that Rife had sexually assaulted his young female students. Rife’s school terminated his employment. He returned to Kentucky, where federal agents interviewed him. Rife eventually confessed to abusing two female students.Rife was charged with two counts of illicit sexual conduct in a foreign place, 18 U.S.C. 2423(c). The government did not allege that Rife offered anything of value in connection with his abuse of the girls; his “illicit sexual conduct” was non-commercial in nature. Rife argued that Congress lacked constitutional authority to punish him for non-commercial acts of sexual abuse that occurred in a foreign country years after he had traveled there. The district court denied Rife’s motion to dismiss, passing over the foreign commerce issue but upholding section 2423(c) as a valid exercise of Congress’s power to implement the Optional Protocol. The court sentenced Rife to 252 months’ imprisonment. The Sixth Circuit affirmed, citing Supreme Court precedent; section 2423(c) as applied here was within Congress’s power to enact legislation implementing treaties. View "United States v. Rife" on Justia Law
Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation
Cassirer inherited a Pissaro Impressionist painting. After the Nazis came to power in Germany, she surrendered the painting to obtain an exit visa. She and her grandson, Claude, eventually settled in the United States. The family’s post-war search for the painting was unsuccessful. In the 1990s, the painting was purchased by the Foundation, an entity created and controlled by the Kingdom of Spain.Claude sued the Foundation, invoking the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1602, to establish jurisdiction. FSIA provides foreign states and their instrumentalities with immunity from suit unless the claim falls within a specified exception. The court held that the Nazi confiscation of the painting brought Claude’s suit within the FSIA exception for expropriated property. To determine what property law governed the dispute, the court had to apply a choice-of-law rule. The plaintiffs urged the use of California’s choice-of-law rule; the Foundation advocated federal common law. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the choice of the federal option, which commanded the use of the law of Spain, under which the Foundation was the rightful owner.The Supreme Court vacated. In an FSIA suit raising non-federal claims against a foreign state or instrumentality, a court should determine the substantive law by using the same choice-of-law rule applicable in a similar suit against a private party. When a foreign state is not immune from suit under FSIA, it is subject to the same rules of liability as a private party. Only the same choice-of-law rule can guarantee the use of the same substantive law and guarantee the same liability. Judicial creation of federal common law to displace state-created rules must be “necessary to protect uniquely federal interests.” Even the federal government disclaims any necessity for a federal choice-of-law rule in FSIA suits raising non-federal claims. View "Cassirer v. Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection Foundation" on Justia Law
Aenergy, S.A. v. Republic of Angola
Plaintiffs Aenergy, S.A., and Combined Cycle Power Plant Soyo, S.A. (together, “AE”), sued various Angolan Government entities (together, “Angola”), plus General Electric Co. and related entities (together, “GE”). AE alleges that Angola wrongfully cancelled AE’s Angolan power plant contracts and seized its related property in violation of state and international law and that GE interfered with its contracts and prospective business relations.The court found that the standard principles of forum non conveniens applies to AE’s lawsuit brought pursuant to exceptions to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”), 28 U.S.C. Sec. 1605. The court reasoned that forum non conveniens does not require a case-by-case consideration of comity, and therefore is consistent with the FSIA’s purpose in establishing a “comprehensive set of legal standards.”The court concluded that the district court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing AE’s complaint on forum non conveniens grounds. AE argues that the district court erred in applying the three-step forum non conveniens analysis. The court held that the district court reasonably found that AE’s forum choice was entitled to minimal deference; that Angola is an adequate alternative forum; and that the public and private Gilbert factors favor Angola. Thus the court affirmed the district court’s orders. View "Aenergy, S.A. v. Republic of Angola" on Justia Law
Vitaly Baturin v. Commissioner, Internal Revenue
Petitioner, a Russian scientist, held a J-1 exchange visitor visa as a researcher sponsored by his employer. In 2010 and 2011, Petitioner received W-2 in the amount of $76,729 and $79,061, respectively. Petitioner filed 1040-NR forms, taking the position that all his earnings were exempt from taxation under the United States-Russia Tax Treaty (“Tax Treaty”). In 2014, the IRS sent Petitioner a notice of deficiency and Petitioner sought relief at the Tax Court.The Tax Court found in favor of Petitioner, holding that his W-2 income was properly considered “a grant, allowance, or similar payments” under the Tax Treaty. The court reasoned that “wages may be eligible for exemption so long as they are similar to a grant or allowance.”The Fourth Circuit reversed. The Tax Treaty provides that salaries, wages, and other similar remuneration are taxable; however, a grant, allowance, or similar payments payable to a person who is studying or doing research is exempt. Adopting the reasoning in Bingler v. Johnson, 394 U.S. 741 (1969), the court held the relevant question is “whether there is a “requirement of any substantial quid pro quo” that distinguishes compensation for employment from a “relatively disinterested, ‘no-string’” grant.” The Fourth Circuit remanded the case to the Tax Court for further proceedings. View "Vitaly Baturin v. Commissioner, Internal Revenue" on Justia Law
Celestin v. Caribbean Air Mail, Inc.
Plaintiffs filed a putative class action alleging that Haitian government officials and multinational corporations conspired to fix the prices of remittances and telephone calls from the United States to Haiti. Plaintiffs allege a price-fixing claim under the Sherman Act and related state law claims, alleging that defendants agreed to produce official instruments (a Presidential Order and two Circulars of the Bank of the Republic of Haiti) to disguise their agreement as a tax for domestic education programs.The Second Circuit held that the act of state doctrine does not bar adjudication of a claim merely because that claim turns on the "propriety" of the official acts of a foreign sovereign. Instead, the doctrine forecloses a claim only if it would require a court to declare that an official act of a foreign sovereign is invalid, i.e., to deny the act legal effect. In this case, even assuming the Presidential Order and Circulars have their full purported legal effect under Haitian law, the court concluded that plaintiffs' antitrust claim under U.S. federal law remains cognizable. Accordingly, the court reversed the district court's dismissal of the antitrust claim under the act of state doctrine and vacated the dismissal of the fifteen state law claims for reanalysis under the proper standard. The court also vacated the dismissal on the alternative grounds of forum non conveniens because the district court did not give due deference to U.S.-resident plaintiffs' choice of forum. The court remanded for further proceedings. View "Celestin v. Caribbean Air Mail, Inc." on Justia Law