Justia U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in International Law

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S.H., the daughter of William and Chantal Holt, was born prematurely while the family was stationed at a United States Air Force (USAF) base in Spain. As a result of her premature birth, S.H. was diagnosed with cerebral palsy after the family returned to the United States. The Holts filed suit against the United States, alleging that officials at a USAF base in California negligently approved the family's request for command sponsored travel to a base in Spain ill-equipped to deal with Mrs. Holt's medical needs. The Holts also argued that S.H.'s injury first occurred upon their return to the United States. The district court awarded damages to the Holts. The court applied the foreign country exception of the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), 28 U.S.C. 2680(k), and held that an injury is suffered where the harm first impinges upon the body, even if it is later diagnosed elsewhere. Here, the undisputed facts of this case indicate that the force—the brain injury S.H. suffered at or near the time of her birth—impinged upon her body in Spain. Consequently, Spain is where the Holts' claims arose. The court concluded that S.H.'s cerebral palsy is derivative of the harm she sustained at birth. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded with instructions to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "S. H. V. United States" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, who had endured many hardships in 2003 while trying to leave Baghdad, alleged, in a purported class action, that former officials of the President George W. Bush administration engaged in the war against Iraq in violation of the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350. The district court held that plaintiff had not exhausted her administrative remedies as required by the Federal Tort Claims Act. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the dismissal, holding that the individual defendants were entitled to official immunity under the Westfall Act, 28 U.S.C. 2679(d)(1), which accords federal employees immunity from common-law tort claims for acts undertaken in the course of their official duties. The court upheld the Attorney General’s scope certification (determining that the employees were acting within the scope of their employment so that the action was one against the United States). The court rejected an argument that defendants could not be immune under the Westfall Act because plaintiff alleged violations of a jus cogens norm of international law from which no derogation is permitted and which can be modified only by a subsequent norm of general international law. Congress can provide immunity for federal officers for jus cogens violations. View "Saleh v. Bush" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, an Indian citizen and a Sikh, sought relief from extradition pursuant to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Plaintiff argued that the United States would violate 22 C.F.R. 95.2(b) if it extradited plaintiff to India because he would “more likely than not” be tortured there, that diplomatic assurances would be insufficient to guarantee that he would not be tortured, and that he would be denied a fair trial in India. The Department and the Indian government exchanged a series of diplomatic notes and, in those notes (“the Understanding”), the Indian government stated that plaintiff would not be tortured. The Department then surrendered plaintiff to the Indian government where he was arrested and subjected to torture. Plaintiff filed suit arguing that the Indian government violated the Understanding when it subjected him to post-extradition torture. The district court dismissed the complaint based on lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court held that the district court did not have jurisdiction over plaintiff's claim because the Indian Government did not waive their sovereign immunity through their diplomatic communications with the United States. The court explained that the Understanding is not an implicit waiver of sovereign immunity by the Indian government. Not only does the Understanding not match any of the three circumstances that ordinarily give rise to an implied waiver, but it also does not demonstrate that India intended the Understanding to be enforceable in United States courts. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Barapind v. Government of the Republic of India" on Justia Law
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This dispute stems from plaintiff's attempt to protect his copyright in photographs of Pablo Picasso's artworks after an American art editor (Wofsy) reproduced the photographic images. Plaintiff received a judgment in French court of two million euros in "astreinte" against Wofsy. Plaintiff then sought to enforce the judgment in federal court in California under the California Uniform Foreign-Court Monetary Judgment Recognition Act, Cal. Civ. Proc. Code 1713 et seq. The court held that Fed. R. Civ. P. 44.1 authorizes district courts to consider foreign legal materials outside the pleadings in ruling on a motion to dismiss because Rule 44.1 treats foreign law determinations as questions of law, not fact. In this case, the district court did not err in considering expert declarations on the content of French law in ruling on Wofsy’s Rule 12(b)(6) motion. The court concluded that the district court erred in concluding that “the award of an astreinte in this case constitutes a penalty for purposes of the [Uniform Recognition Act].” The court held that the astreinte awarded by the French courts to plaintiff falls within the Uniform Recognition Act as a judgment that “[g]rants . . . a sum of money.” In this case, the astreinte was not a “fine or other penalty” for purposes of the Act, and accordingly the district court erred in concluding otherwise. Therefore, the court reversed and remanded. View "De Fontbrune v. Wofsy" on Justia Law

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Lien Claimants attempted to collect on valid judgments they hold against Iran for their injuries arising out of terrorism sponsored by Iran. Lien Claimants seek to attach a $2.8 million judgment that the Ministry obtained in an underlying arbitration with an American company, Cubic. The district court granted Lien Claimants’ motion to attach the Cubic Judgment. The court held that the United States does not violate its obligations under the Algiers Accords by permitting Lien Claimants to attach the Cubic Judgment. The court also held that the Cubic Judgment is a blocked asset pursuant to President Obama’s 2012 Executive Order No. 13359 subject to attachment and execution under the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), 28 U.S.C. 1610 note. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "The Ministry of Defense v. Frym" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, four groups of individuals, hold separate judgments obtained in U.S. courts against the Republic of Iran, based on various terrorist attacks that occurred between 1990 and 2002. The state-sponsored exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1330, abrogated a foreign sovereign's immunity from judgment, but not its immunity from collection. Thus, terrorism victims had a right without a meaningful remedy. Section 201(a) of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA), Pub L. No. 107-297, 201(a), and 28 U.S.C. 1610(g) addressed this loophole. Section 201 allowed victims to satisfy such judgments through attachment of blocked assets of terrorist parties and Section 1610(g) extended the TRIA’s abrogation of asset immunity to funds that were not blocked. The court agreed with the Second Circuit that it is “clear beyond cavil that Section 201(a) of the TRIA provides courts with subject matter jurisdiction over post-judgment execution and attachment proceedings against property held in the hands of an instrumentality of the judgment-debtor, even if the instrumentality is not itself named in the judgment.” Further, section 1610(g) makes unmistakably clear that whether or not an instrumentality is an alter ego is irrelevant to determining whether its assets are attachable. Therefore, section 201 of the TRIA and section 1610(g) permit victims of terrorism to collect money they’re owed from instrumentalities of the state that sponsored the attacks. Nothing in the text of the FSIA, Rule 19 or the Supreme Court’s retroactivity cases compels a different result. The district court correctly denied Bank Melli’s motion to dismiss and the court affirmed the judgment. View "Bennett v. Bank Melli" on Justia Law

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Nathan Stoliar was convicted and sentenced for crimes related to fraudulent schemes involving the false generation of renewable fuel credits under United States law, false representations regarding the type of fuel being sold, and the export of biodiesel without retiring or purchasing renewable energy credits adequate to cover the exported amount as required under United States law. Canada filed a petition for restitution from Soliar but the district court denied the order. This is a petition for a writ of mandamus filed pursuant to the Crime Victims' Rights Act (CVRA), 18 U.S.C. 3771. Because a petitioner seeking restitution under the CVRA must also rely on a substantive restitution statute, Canada sought restitution pursuant to the Mandatory Victims Restitution Act (MVRA), 18 U.S.C. 3663A(a)(1), (c)(1). The court concluded that Canada's claim for restitution is based on events that are insufficiently related to the schemes set forth in the indictment and the facts supporting Stoliar's guilty plea. Accordingly, the court denied the petition for a writ of mandamus. View "Her Majesty the Queen in Right of Canada v. U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada" on Justia Law

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The South Korean government seeks to prosecute petitioner for murder and requests that he be extradited from the United States. Petitioner had served a prison term in South Korea after being convicted of destroying evidence in connection with the murder. A magistrate judge certified the extradition and petitioner filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus to challenge the certification order. The court affirmed the district court's denial of the petition where the lapse-of-time provision in the 1998 extradition treaty between the United States and South Korea did not impose a mandatory bar on petitioner's extradition. Further, the double-jeopardy provision of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) governing American military personnel and their dependents in South Korea does not provide a basis for a court to bar petitioner's extradition where the individual rights established through the SOFA are not judicially enforceable. The court's decision does not foreclose petitioner from seeking relief from the Secretary of State. View "Patterson v. Wagner" on Justia Law

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The government filed a civil complaint seeking forfeiture of funds held in a brokerage account. The clerk entered a default against Appellants and all other potential claimants. The district court granted the government’s motion for entry of default and, concluding that Appellants could not allege a meritorious defense, refused to grant their motion to set aside the default judgment under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b)(1). The court did not specifically articulate any “extreme circumstances” justifying entry of default and default judgment. A panel of the Ninth Circuit affirmed, holding (1) courts reviewing a Rule 60(b) motion must apply the factors outlined in Falk v. Allen to ensure that the “extreme circumstances” policy is recognized, but nothing in Rule 60(b) nor the Court’s precedent requires a district court to articulate on the record particular “extreme circumstances” before it denies a motion to set aside a default judgment; and (2) after applying the Falk factors, it is clear that Appellants had no meritorious defense, and therefore, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellants’ Rule 60(b)(1) motion. View "United States v. Aguilar" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, family members of union leaders killed in Colombia by members of the Colombian National Army's 18th Brigade, filed suit against Occidental, alleging several causes of action, including three under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 U.S.C. 1350, contending that Occidental should be liable for the 18th Brigade's war crimes, crimes against humanity, and assorted torts arising out of the murder of the union leaders. The district court dismissed the complaint under Rule 12(b)(1) because it raised nonjusticiable political questions. The court affirmed, concluding that the facts of this case cannot be framed in such a way that severs the tie between the United States' and Occidental's funding of the CNA and the 18th Brigade. Plaintiffs' allegations are manifestly irreconcilable with the State Department's human rights certifications to Congress and the court remains bound by the Supreme Court's holding in Oetjen v. Cent. Leather Co. and Corrie v. Caterpillar, Inc. View "Saldana v. Occidental Petroleum" on Justia Law