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

Articles Posted in International Law
by
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

by
Plaintiff was a Syrian national living in California as a legal permanent resident and is now a U.S. citizen. She is not and has never been a Kuwaiti national. In 2014, Plaintiff entered into a written employment contract with the Consulate to work as a secretary. Plaintiff alleges that the Consulate created a hostile work environment by harassing, discriminating, and retaliating against her on the basis of her gender, religion, and Syrian national origin, violated various wage and hour laws, and breached her employment contract. Claiming that she was constructively terminated from her employment, she filed suit.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s denial of the Consulate’s motion to dismiss. The commercial activity exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(2), applied. The employment of diplomatic, civil service, or military personnel is governmental and the employment of other personnel is commercial unless the foreign state shows that the employee’s duties included “powers peculiar to sovereigns.” The district court properly exercised its discretion in finding that Plaintiff, who was employed as an administrative assistant, was not a civil servant and that her duties did not include “powers peculiar to sovereigns.” View "Mohammad v. General Consulate of the State of Kuwait in Los Angeles" on Justia Law

by
Cambodian villagers who alleged that they were trafficked into Thailand and subjected to forced labor at seafood processing factories sued under the civil remedy provision of the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, 18 U.S.C. 1595. The Ninth Circuit affirmed summary judgment in favor of the defendants.Section 1596 authorizes extraterritorial application of the Act for specific criminal trafficking offenses. Even assuming that section 1595 permits a private cause of action for extraterritorial violations of section 1596's substantive provisions if other requirements are satisfied, certain defendants were not “present in the United States” at any time relevant to the lawsuit as section 1596 requires. Even if section 1596 requires foreign companies to possess nothing more than minimum contacts with the United States, the plaintiffs did not meet that standard. The record did not support either specific or general jurisdiction as a basis for finding minimum contacts. The court rejected an argument that certain defendants were present in the U.S. through an agency relationship or joint venture with a Delaware LLC with its principal place of business in California. The plaintiffs failed to establish a triable issue that a Thai company registered to conduct business in California knowingly benefitted from the alleged human trafficking and forced labor abuses, financially and by accessing a steady stream of imported seafood. View "Ratha v. Phatthana Seafood Co. Ltd." on Justia Law

by
WhatsApp sued under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and California state law, alleging that NSO, a privately owned and operated Israeli corporation, sent malware through WhatsApp’s server system to approximately 1,400 mobile devices. NSO argued that foreign sovereign immunity protected it from suit and, therefore, the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because NSO was acting as an agent of a foreign state, entitling it to “conduct-based immunity”—a common-law doctrine that protects foreign officials acting in their official capacity.The district court and Ninth Circuit rejected that argument. The Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act, 28 U.S.C. 1602, occupies the field of foreign sovereign immunity and categorically forecloses extending immunity to any entity that falls outside the Act’s broad definition of “foreign state.” There has been no indication that the Supreme Court intended to extend foreign official immunity to entities. Moreover, the FSIA’s text, purpose, and history demonstrate that Congress displaced common-law sovereign immunity as it relates to entities. View "WhatsApp Inc.v. NSO Group Technologies Ltd." on Justia Law

by
S.L.C. is the now-six-year-old, U.S.-citizen daughter of Lazaro, who resides near Seattle, and Colchester, who resides in Spain. Colchester was given sole custody of S.L.C. by a Spanish court. Lazaro was visiting Colchester and S.L.C. when the COVID-19 pandemic erupted. According to Lazaro, during that visit, Colchester often “screamed at and acted aggressively.” Lazaro testified about several specific instances of abuse. Lazaro absconded with S.L.C.and, unable to stay in Spain because of the lockdown, fled to Seattle with S.L.C.Colchester filed a petition under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Spanish court issued a warrant, with an order declaring that Spain was S.L.C.’s habitual residence. In Washington state, Lazaro filed petitions for domestic violence orders of protection. Colchester filed a Hague Convention petition in Washington. After dismissing Lazaro’s petitions, the state court issued a warrant, authorizing law enforcement to seize S.L.C. Lazaro responded by temporarily hiding with S.L.C.The district court granted the Hague Convention petition. The Ninth Circuit vacated. Neither the Hague Convention nor its implementing legislation, the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, provides for the appointment of a psychologist as of right but the district court erred in refusing the mother’s request for such an appointment to provide an expert opinion regarding her allegations of abuse and psychological harm to the child. The district court also erred by failing to make findings of fact adequate to support its order. View "Colchester v. Lazaro" on Justia Law

by
The Ninth Circuit vacated the district court's denial of a petition for return of petitioner's child to France under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The panel concluded that the district court made three legal errors: 1) assuming petitioner cut off financial support for the child, the district court erred as a matter of law in determining that was sufficient to establish that he clearly and unequivocally abandoned the child, the showing required for deeming a parent not to be exercising custody rights; 2) the district court further erred in declining to return the child to France based on a "grave risk" defense, without first considering whether there are alternative remedies available to protect the child and permit her return to France for the period of time necessary for French courts to make the custody determination; and 3) the district court also erred in relying in part on the pandemic to deny the petition because the record did not include any evidence addressing what specific pandemic related risk returning the child to France would present. View "Jones v. Fairfield" on Justia Law

by
Father sought the return of his children under the Hague Convention of the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and the International Child Abduction Remedies Act (ICARA), which implements the Convention. The district court found the repatriation of the minor children to Germany posed a grave risk of psychological harm if in father's custody and therefore ordered that the children be transferred back to Germany in mother's custody until a German court made a custody determination.The Ninth Circuit vacated and remanded the district court's alternative remedy order for the district court to reasonably ensure compliance with its alternative remedy in Germany. The court explained that, because mother wrongfully removed the children, as she conceded, the district court in no way exceeded its authority to mandate the children's return to Germany accompanied by mother. However, in the context of an Article 13(b) finding, the district court needed a fuller record to have sufficient guarantees that the alternative remedy will be enforced in Germany. View "Radu v. Johnson Shon" on Justia Law

by
Ayla, a San Francisco-based brand, is the registered owner of trademarks for use of the “AYLA” word mark in connection with on-site beauty services, online retail beauty products, cosmetics services, and cosmetics. Alya Skin, an Australian company, sells and ships skincare products worldwide. Ayla sued in the Northern District of California, asserting trademark infringement and false designation of origin under the Lanham Act, 15 U.S.C. 1114, 1125(a).Alya Skin asserted that it has no retail stores, offices, officers, directors, employees, bank accounts, or real property in the U.S., does not sell products in U.S. retail stores, solicit business from Americans, nor direct advertising toward California; less than 10% of its sales have been to the U.S. and less than 2% of its sales have been to California. Alya Skin uses an Idaho company to fulfill shipments outside of Australia and New Zealand. Alya Skin filed a U.S. trademark registration application in 2018, and represented to potential customers that its products are FDA-approved; it ships from, and allows returns to, Idaho Alya Skin’s website listed U.S. dollars as the default currency and advertises four-day delivery to the U.S.The Ninth Circuit reversed the dismissal of the suit. Jurisdiction under Fed.R.Civ.P. 4(k)(2) comports with due process. Alya Skin had minimum contacts with the U.S., and subjecting it to an action in that forum would not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice. The company purposefully directed its activities toward the U.S. The Lanham Act and unfair competition claims arose out of or resulted from Alya Skin’s intentional forum-related activities. View "Ayla, LLC v. Alya Skin Pty. Ltd." on Justia Law

by
Sura served in the Salvadoran Army and helped local police arrest gang members, including members of MS-13. In February 2016, MS-13 members told him that they had an order for him to disappear. He did not report it to the police because he was concerned that some police officers were also MS-13 members. Sura continued his military service until it was completed, later testifying that he did not want to be AWOL. In May 2016, four men were murdered five kilometers from where Sura was stationed. According to an Interpol Red Notice, an arrest warrant was issued for Sura and others asserting that they murdered four MS-13 gang members.Sura entered the U.S. months later and was removed after stating that he had no fear of returning to El Salvador. Eight days later, he re-entered and was placed in withholding-only proceedings after expressing a fear of returning to El Salvador. Sura applied for withholding of removal and relief under the Convention Against Torture. Sura denied any prior knowledge of either arrest warrant and any role in the murders. Sura testified that he feared returning to El Salvador and being placed in custody based on false charges, where he would be vulnerable to MS-13 and his former colleagues who framed him.The IJ ordered Villalobos Sura removed, finding him statutorily ineligible for withholding of removal under the serious nonpolitical crime bar. The IJ found Sura’s testimony insufficiently credible and that the isolated threat did not amount to past persecution. The BIA affirmed. The Ninth Circuit denied a petition for review. The Interpol Red Notice, among other evidence, created a serious reason to believe Sura committed a serious nonpolitical crime before entering the U.S., rendering him ineligible for withholding of removal. View "Villalobos-Sura v. Garland" on Justia Law

by
Yañez was shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent while on the border fence, which is in the United States. After being shot, Yañez fell and landed across the international border. Yañez’s family filed civil claims against the government and individual federal agents.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the rejection of claims under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), and a “Bivens” claim. The court rejected an argument that the shooting and Border Patrol’s Rocking Policy, authorizing deadly force in response to rock-throwing, violated an international jus cogens norm against extrajudicial killing and was actionable under the ATS; the ATS does not waive sovereign immunity, even for jus cogens violations. Claims under the FTCA were time-barred. Plaintiff initially did not pursue an FTCA claim because she believed that, under Ninth Circuit precedent, judgment on an FTCA claim would have foreclosed her Bivens claims. Plaintiff amended the complaint to assert FTCA claims after the Supreme Court abrogated that precedent in 2016. The FTCA’s judgment bar did not foreclose a contemporaneously filed Bivens claim when the government had prevailed on the FTCA claim, so the Supreme Court’s decision was irrelevant to this situation. That mistake of law was not outside of plaintiff's control and did not qualify as an extraordinary circumstance supporting equitable tolling. Special factor counseled against extending a Bivens remedy; doing so would challenge a high-level executive policy and implicated national security. View "Quintero-Perez v. United States" on Justia Law