Articles Posted in International Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against the República Bolivariana de Venezuela and Petroquimica de Venezuela, S.A., alleging unlawful expropriation of their property in violation of international law. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and denied their motion for leave nunc pro tunc to file an amended complaint. While the case was pending, the Supreme Court issued Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, et al. v. Helmerich & Payne Int'l Drilling Co., 137 S. Ct. 1312 (2017), which detailed the showing that plaintiffs such as the ones in this case must make in order to have jurisdiction over a foreign state in United States courts under the expropriation (i.e., takings) exception of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(3). The court remanded for the district court to permit plaintiffs to file an amended complaint and, after defendants have responded, to address whether the domestic takings rule applied and whether jurisdiction existed under the FSIA's expropriation exception. View "Comparelli v. Republica Bolivariana De Venezuela" on Justia Law

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A flag painted on the side of a vessel is not "flying" for the purpose of making a "claim of nationality or registry" under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act, 46 U.S.C. 70502(e). In this case, the United States Coast Guard stopped a vessel in international waters and arrested the crew members aboard the vessel. The crew members argued that the United States lacked jurisdiction because the painted Colombian flag constituted a claim of nationality under section 70502(e)(2) that obliged the Coast Guard to ask Colombian officials about the vessel. The Fifth Circuit affirmed defendant's convictions for drug offenses, holding that the United States had jurisdiction over the vessel and its crew because the painted Colombian flag on its hull was not flying for the purpose of making a claim of nationality or registry. Finally, the court rejected alternative arguments. View "United States v. Obando" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against Venezuela, seeking payment for or return of the Bolivar Collection, asserting jurisdiction under the commercial activity exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1605(a)(2). Plaintiff inherited the Bolivar Collection, personal items belonging to Simon Bolivar that were gifted to Joaquin de Mier, which was passed down through generations of de Mier's family. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's denial of Venezuela's motion to dismiss on the basis of sovereign immunity. The court held that jurisdiction over plaintiff's action came from the third clause of the FSIA's commercial activity exception because his action was based on Venezuela's act outside the United States in connection with commercial activity, and that act had a direct effect in the United States. View "Devengoechea v. Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela" on Justia Law

Posted in: International Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350, and the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, 28 U.S.C. 1350 note, against defendant, a Lieutenant in the Chilean Army, who oversaw and participated in the detention, torture, and murder of Víctor Jara in the days following General Augusto Pinochet's coup in Chile. The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the district court's dismissal of the claims, holding that a federal court may not exercise jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Statute when all of defendant’s relevant conduct took place outside the United States. View "Jara v. Barrientos Nunez" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, representatives of the estates of decedents who perished in a plan crash in Nigeria, appealed the district court's dismissal of their claims based upon the doctrine of forum non conveniens and denial of their motion for relief under Fed. R. Civ. P. 60(b). The Eleventh Circuit affirmed the judgment, holding that the district court did not abuse its discretion in either dismissing the claims or denying the Rule 60(b) motion. In this case, the district court did not abuse its discretion either in determining that the public factors also weighed in favor of dismissal or in its overall analysis under the forum non conveniens doctrine and conclusion that dismissal of the foreign decedents' claims was warranted. In regard to the denial of the Rule 60(b) motion, the district court did not apply the law in an incorrect or unreasonable manner in deciding that the procedural posture did not warrant the requested relief. Furthermore, there was no reason to believe that defendant would contest liability in Nigeria and thus there was no reason to disturb the district court's denial of reconsideration on this ground. View "Kolawole v. Sellers" on Justia Law

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The Eleventh Circuit held, in this international arbitration dispute, that questions of arbitral venue, even those arising in international arbitration, are presumptively for the arbitrator to decide. Because the arbitrator in this case arguably interpreted the arbitral-venue provision at issue, the court deferred to that interpretation. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's confirmation of the arbitral award finding venue proper in Atlanta and Profimex liable on OAD's defamation counterclaim. View "Bamberger Rosenheim, Ltd. v. OA Development, Inc." on Justia Law

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This case involved a contract dispute arising out of the lease of telecommunications equipment by GDG to the Government of Belize. In this appeal, the Government challenged the district court's denial of its motion to dismiss. The court concluded that the Government waived its sovereign immunity. In this case, the Government claimed that the express waiver of sovereign immunity contained in the contract was ineffectual because its Minister of Budget Management, who negotiated and signed the contract on its behalf, lacked the authority to waive sovereign immunity. The court explained that, despite the Minister's claimed lack of authority to bind Belize, the Government ratified the actions by fully performing its contract obligations during the lease term and paying approximately $13.5 million in forty separate payments over a period of nearly six years and spanning two different administrations. Therefore, the court reasoned that the Government's conduct intended it to be bound by the contract and affirmed the district court's denial of the Government's motion to dismiss. View "GDG Acquisitions LLC v. Government of Belize" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a United States citizen, worked as the lead trumpeter on a passenger Royal Caribbean cruise ship. The ship is a Bahamian flagged vessel with a home port in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Royal Caribbean, the operator of the vessel, is a Liberian corporation with its principal place of business in Florida. After plaintiff became ill while working for Royal Caribbean, he filed suit alleging unseaworthiness, negligence, negligence under the Jones Act, maintenance and cure, and seaman’s wages and penalties. Royal Caribbean moved to compel arbitration, and the district court granted the motion. This appeal presents an issue of first impression: whether a seaman’s work in international waters on a cruise ship that calls on foreign ports constitutes “performance . . . abroad” under the United Nations Convention on the Recognition and Enforcement of Foreign Arbitral Awards, 9 U.S.C. 202. The Convention makes enforceable an arbitration agreement between United States citizens if their contractual relationship “envisages performance . . . abroad.” The court affirmed the order compelling arbitration of the dispute because a seaman works abroad when traveling in international waters to or from a foreign state. View "Alberts v. Royal Caribbean Cruises, Ltd." on Justia Law

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After ending their marriage, Ex-Wife and Ex-Husband commenced proceedings in the Moscow Court for division of marital assets. In the Russian Dispute, Ex-Wife claimed that Ex-Husband was concealing and dissipating marital assets through and with the assistance of “offshore companies” around the world. In the United States, Ex-Wife sought information from Gabriella Pugh and her employer in Atlanta, Georgia - Trident - that she expected would reveal Ex-Husband’s beneficial ownership of Bahamian corporation, Tripleton. On referral, the Magistrate Judge granted Ex-Wife's ex parte Application for Judicial Assistance and authorized service of two subpoenas. In these consolidated appeals, Trident challenges the district court's order allowing discovery pursuant to 28 U.S.C. 1782 (Appeal No. 15-13008 (“First Appeal”)) and imposing contempt sanctions (Appeal No. 15-15066 (“Second Appeal”)). The court agreed with the district court that the location of responsive documents and electronically stored information - to the extent a physical location can be discerned in this digital age - does not establish a per se bar to discovery under section 1782; having rejected the Extraterritoriality Argument, the court agreed with the district court that significant “circumstantial evidence” established that Trident Atlanta had “control” over responsive documents in the physical possession or custody of Trident Bahamas; and therefore the court affirmed as to the First Appeal. The court rejected Trident Atlanta's frivolous jurisdictional argument; the Contempt Order is supported by the evidence; and therefore the court affirmed the Second Appeal. View "Sergeeva v. Tripleton Int'l Ltd." on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, heirs to eight civilians killed in 2003 by Bolivian troops, filed suit under the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), 28 U.S.C. 1350, seeking damages and fees. In this case, plaintiffs have exhausted all of their available Bolivian remedies. They received some compensation through those remedies but not nearly as much as they claim is necessary to fully compensate them for their losses. Defendants sought certification for an interlocutory appeal on two issues: (1) whether the exhaustion requirement in section 2(b) of the TVPA bars plaintiffs’ claims, and (2) whether plaintiffs have failed to state claims for relief under the TVPA. The court answered the first certified question in the negative and affirmed the part of the district court’s order denying defendant’s motion to dismiss the TVPA claims on exhaustion grounds. The court concluded that section 2(b)’s exhaustion requirement does not bar a TVPA suit by a claimant who has successfully exhausted her remedies in the foreign state. The court exercised its discretion not to decide the second certified issue, which is actually a cluster of multiple issues involving the claims of multiple plaintiffs against the two defendants. View "Mamani v. Sanchez Berzain" on Justia Law