Justia International Law Opinion Summaries

by
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

by
Plaintiffs, victims or representatives of victims in terrorist attacks in Amman, Jordan, filed suit alleging that defendants aided and abetted the attackers, in violation of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act by providing banking services to Al Rajhi Bank, Saudi Arabiaʹs largest commercial bank, which was thought by some to have ties to al‐Qaeda in Iraq, the terrorist organization responsible for the November 9 attacks. The Second Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of defendants' motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim. The court held that plaintiffs' civil aiding and abetting claim failed because plaintiffs failed to adequately allege that HSBC was generally aware of its role as part of an overall illegal or tortious activity at the time that it provided the assistance, and that HSBC knowingly and substantially assisted the principal violation. View "Siegel v. HSBC North America Holdings, Inc." on Justia Law

by
The United States government thought that three banks, headquartered in China, held records that might clarify how North Korea finances its nuclear weapons program. After the government subpoenaed those records, the Banks resisted and claimed that the district court lacked personal jurisdiction, that the Patriot Act subpoena exceeded the government's statutory authority, and that compelling production would run afoul of comity principles. The district court overruled the Banks' objections and subsequently held the Banks in civil contempt for failing to produce the requested records. The DC Circuit affirmed the contempt orders, holding that the Banks' jurisdictional challenges were meritless where Banks One and Two consented to jurisdiction when they opened branches in the United States and, although Bank Three has no U.S. branch and executed no such agreement, its choice to maintain correspondent accounts in the United States established an adequate connection to the forum and the enforcement action to sustain jurisdiction. The court also held that records "related to" a U.S. correspondent account, under 31 U.SC. 5318(k)(3)(A)(i), include records of transactions that do not themselves pass through a correspondent account when those transactions are in service of an enterprise entirely dedicated to obtaining access to U.S. currency and markets using a U.S. correspondent account. In this case, Bank Three's subpoena under the Patriot Act did not exceed the Attorney General's statutory authority, because all records pertaining to the Company's Bank Three account and its correspondent banking transactions, no matter where they occurred, are "related to" the Bank's U.S. correspondent accounts. In regard to the Banks' comity concerns, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by enforcing the subpoenas despite the fact that the United States chose not to pursue the process designated in the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement (MLAA) between the United States and China. Finally, the court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by issuing the civil contempt orders in light of the circumstances. View "In re: Sealed Case" on Justia Law

by
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

by
Plaintiffs, U.S. citizens of Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel, appealed the district court's dismissal of their federal civil antiterrorism and Israeli law claims against Facebook, alleging that Facebook unlawfully assisted Hamas in the attacks. Plaintiff argued that Hamas used Facebook to post content that encouraged terrorist attacks in Israel during the time period of the attacks. The DC Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment as to the federal claims, holding that 42 U.S.C. 230(c)(1) bars civil liability claims that treat a provider or user of an interactive computer service as a publisher or speaker of any information provided by another information content provider. In this case, plaintiffs' claims fell within Facebook's status as the publisher of information within the meaning of the statute, and Facebook did not develop the content of the postings at issue. Therefore, section 230(c)(1) applied to Facebook's alleged conduct in this case. The court also held that applying section 230(c)(1) to plaintiffs' claims would not impair the enforcement of a federal criminal statute; the Anti-Terrorism Act's civil remedies provision, 18 U.S.C. 2333, did not implicitly narrow or repeal section 230(c)(1); and applying section 230(c)(1) to plaintiffs' claims would not be impermissibly extraterritorial. Finally, in regard to the foreign law claims, the court declined to exercise supplemental jurisdiction sua sponte to cure jurisdictional defects and therefore dismissed these claims. View "Force v. Facebook, Inc." on Justia Law

by
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

by
Plaintiff filed suit alleging claims for forced labor and human trafficking in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA) and the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), as well as a claim for unpaid overtime under Article 19 of the New York Labor Law. Plaintiff, a Filipino citizen, lawfully entered the United States as a temporary guest worker. Defendants are Grandeur, a provider of hotel and resort services, and the manager of Grandeur. The Second Circuit vacated the district court's dismissal of plaintiff's TVPA claims for forced labor and human trafficking. The court held that plaintiff has plausibly stated violations of the TVPA where the complaint alleged that the employers recruited plaintiff to work for them, told him to rely on them, represented that they were ensuring that he could remain lawfully in this country, and warned him that they would cancel their sponsorship if he left them or gave them any trouble. View "Adia v. Grandeur Management, Inc." on Justia Law

by
Respondent appealed the district court's final order granting petitioner's petition under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction for the return of the parties' minor child. The Second Circuit agreed with the district court's habitual residence determination, but held that the district court erred in granting the petition because the most important protective measures it imposed are unenforceable and not otherwise accompanied by sufficient guarantees of performance. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings concerning the availability of alternative ameliorative measures. View "Saada v. Golan" on Justia Law

by
Taxpayer filed a tax refund action against the United States, seeking a refund collected from him by the IRS pursuant to a treaty between the United States and Canada, for income taxes that he owed to Canada in 2006. After both countries executed the Convention Between the United States of America and Canada with Respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital, the Senate ratified it. Under Article 26A, which was later added to the treaty and ratified by the Senate, the United States and Canada agreed to assist each other with the collection of unpaid taxes. The court affirmed the district court's judgment and held that Article 26A merely facilitates collection of an already existing debt and thus did not violate the Origination Clause; Article 26A did not infringe on the Taxing Clause where the Taxing Clause is not an exclusive grant of power to Congress; and thus Article 26A did not require House-originating implementation legislation. The court also held that the IRS can use its domestic assessment authority in pursuit of the collection of a liability owed by a taxpayer to Canada. View "Retfalvi v. United States" on Justia Law

by
After a hearing under 18 U.S.C. 3184, a magistrate certified Venckiene as extraditable to Lithuania for the prosecution of alleged offenses arising from a custody battle over Venckiene’s niece. The Secretary of State granted the extradition. Venckiene obtained a temporary stay and sought habeas corpus relief, claiming that the magistrate failed to apply the political offense exception in the extradition treaty and erred in finding probable cause that she was guilty of the offenses. Venckiene and others alleged political and judicial corruption in connection with her niece’s allegations of sexual abuse and claimed that the allegations evolved into protests that culminated in the formation of a new political party and the suspicious deaths of four people, including Venckiene's brother. Venckiene claimed that extradition violated her due process rights and that she might be subject to “particularly atrocious procedures or punishments” in Lithuania. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. While there is a political dimension to Venckiene's actions, they do not qualify as relative political offenses, which require a finding of “violent political disturbance or uprising.” Venckiene’s actions were not objectively those of someone furthering a political agenda; a video and transcript support the charges that Venckiene attempted to prevent law enforcement from entering her home and seizing her niece to execute a court order. Without specific evidence of atrocious conditions that Venckiene is likely to experience if extradited, blocking this extradition after the executive has approved it would go beyond the role of the court in the extradition process. View "Venckiene v. United States" on Justia Law