Justia U.S. 4th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in International Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendants, alleging that they forced her to provide labor in violation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA), 18 U.S.C. 1589. Specifically, plaintiff alleged six claims of involuntary servitude and illegal trafficking stemming from her work as a live-in housemaid to defendants. The district court granted summary judgment to defendants. Drawing all reasonable inferences in favor of plaintiff, the court agreed with the district court's determination that plaintiff's evidence was insufficient to satisfy the requirements of the forced labor statute and that defendants were entitled to summary judgment as a matter of law. In this case, plaintiff failed to develop sufficient evidence upon which a jury could reasonably conclude that defendants knowingly forced or coerced her to come to the United States, or to remain in their employ against her will, by means of serious psychological harm or abuse of law or legal process, when she otherwise would have left and returned to her home country of Kenya. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Muchira v. Al-Rawaf" on Justia Law

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The Foundation agreed to lend $2 million pursuant to a loan agreement to Al-Harmoosh for a company headquartered in Iraq. After Mohammed Harmoosh, a managing partner of the company, refused to pay the loan, the Foundation filed suit for breach of contract in Maryland. Harmoosh moved to dismiss based on an arbitration clause in the loan agreement. The district court dismissed the Foundation's complaint. The Foundation later filed another suit against Harmoosh to collect on the promissory note, this time in the Court of First Instance for Commercial Disputes in Baghdad. After the Foundation and Harmoosh litigated their dispute to final judgment in Iraq, the Foundation filed suit in the District of Maryland, seeking recognition of the Iraqi judgment under the Maryland Uniform Foreign Money-Judgments Recognition Act, Md. Code Ann., Cts. & Jud. Proc. 10-701 et seq. The Foundation also alleged that Harmoosh fraudulently conveyed some of his assets both before and after the Iraqi judgment was rendered. The district court granted summary judgment to Harmoosh on the Maryland Recognition Act claim, and granted Harmoosh's motion to compel arbitration. The court held that judicial proceedings in a foreign court are not "contrary to" an arbitration clause for the purpose of the Maryland Recognition Act if the parties choose to forego their rights to arbitrate by paricipating in those proceedings. The court also concluded that the Foundation raised genuine issues of material fact that preclude a summary judgment holding that Harmoosh preserved his arbitration rights. Accordingly, the court vacated and remanded. View "Iraq Middle Market Development v. Harmoosh" on Justia Law

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Father petitioned for the return of his children to Mexico pursuant to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, T.I.A.S. No. 11670, 19 I.L.M. 1501. The district court declined to order the children returned, and Father appealed. Reviewing the record facts as a whole, the court agreed with the district court that a preponderance of the facts establishes that Son has significant connections demonstrating a secure, stable, and permanent life in his new environment. Son is therefore “settled” within the meaning of the Convention. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court’s determination that Son is “settled” within the meaning of the Hague Convention and affirmed its decision not to exercise its discretion to order Son returned. View "Alcala v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed his conviction for the murder of Special Agent James Terry Watson. Agent Watson - as an Assistant Attaché for the United States Mission in Colombia - was an internationally protected person (an IPP). Defendant, a citizen of Colombia, pleaded guilty to offenses of kidnapping conspiracy and murder of an IPP. Defendant argued that his prosecution in this country for offenses committed in Colombia contravened the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Applying the arbitrary-or-unfair framework, the court concluded that defendant's prosecution in this country was not fundamentally unfair where kidnapping and murder are "self-evidently criminal." Furthermore, the IPP convention alone gave defendant notice sufficient to satisfy due process. The court rejected defendant's contention that because the United States Code provisions implementing the IPP Convention require knowledge of the victim’s IPP status that Bello did not possess, those provisions cannot have put him on notice that he was subject to prosecution in this country. Accordingly, there is no merit to defendant’s mens rea contention - nor his broader claim that the Fifth Amendment’s Due Process Clause precluded his prosecution in this country - and the court must uphold his kidnapping conspiracy and murder convictions. View "United States v. Bello Murillo" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff filed suit against defendant, a colonel in the Somali National Army, under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), 28 U.S.C. 1350, and the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 (TVPA), 28 U.S.C.1350, alleging several violations of international law after a group of soldiers kidnapped him from his home in northern Somalia. The district court dismissed the ATS claims and allowed the TVPA claims to proceed, holding that defendant was not entitled to immunity as a foreign official. Both parties appealed. The court concluded that plaintiff has failed to allege a claim which touches and concerns the United States to support ATS jurisdiction, and therefore the district court did not err in dismissing the ATS counts. The court also agreed with the district court that defendant lacked foreign official immunity for jus cogens violations under Yousuf v. Samantar. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Warfaa v. Ali" on Justia Law

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Petitioner, a citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina, appealed the denial of his petition under 28 U.S.C. 2241 challenging a magistrate judge's certification of extraditability. The magistrate judge found that petitioner was subject to extradition under a treaty between the United States and Bosnia and Herzegovina based on war crimes he allegedly committed during the conflict in former Yugoslavia. The court applied the indefinite limitations period from the United States Torture Act, 18 U.S.C. 2340A, that was in place at the time of the extradition request and concluded that the request for petitioner's extradition is not time-barred under Article VII of the treaty. Further, the acts of torture allegedly perpetrated by petitioner against civilians preclude application of the political offense exception. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's judgment, holding that petitioner's extradition is neither time-barred nor precluded by the political offense exception in the treaty. View "Nezirovic v. Holt" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a citizen of Taiwan, filed suit against the United States, seeking damages for the accidental killing of her husband and the intentional sinking of her husband's fishing vessel during a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) counter-piracy mission. Plaintiff's husband was one of three Chinese hostages captured by pirates. Because allowing this action to proceed would thrust courts into the middle of a sensitive multinational counter-piracy operation and force courts to second-guess the conduct of military engagement, the court agreed that the separation of powers prevents the judicial branch from hearing the case. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the action under the political question and discretionary function doctrines. View "Wu Tien Li-Shou v. United States" on Justia Law

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A magistrate judge in the District of Columbia determined that petitioner, a Mexican citizen, was extraditable under the Extradition Treaty between the United States of America and the United Mexican States, U.S. - Mex., May 4, 1978, 31 U.S.T. 5059. Petitioner owned and operated pharmaceutical businesses in and around Mexico City that illegaly imported psychotropic substances into Mexico. On appeal, petitioner claimed that the magistrate judge lacked jurisdiction to conduct the extradition proceeding and that the Treaty bars his extradition. The court found no merit in petitioner's claim that the fact that he was moved from Maryland to the District of Columbia against his will precludes the D.C. Magistrate from exercising jurisdiction over him where, under the Ker-Frisbie doctrine, a defendant's involuntary presence in a court is not a bar to personal jurisdiction. Further, when construing other jurisdiction and venue statutes concerning foreign nationals that, like 18 U.S.C. 3184, require a defendant to be "found in" a place, the court has held that this "found in" requirement is satisfied even when the defendant is brought there against his will. The court rejected petitioner's argument that the Treaty's Non Bis In Idem provision in Article 6 bars his extradition where the court declined to follow Sindona v. Grant's "same conduct" framework, and adopted the Blockburger v. United States' "same elements" test as the proper mode of analysis. The court rejected petitioner's remaining claims regarding the Treaty's dual criminality provision in Article 2 and rule of specialty provision in Article 17. The court affirmed the denial of petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus. View "Gon v. Holt" on Justia Law

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A German court denied Father's petition under the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, T.I.A.S. No. 11,670, 1343 U.N.T.S. 98, and a German appellate court affirmed. Consequently, Mother did not have to return the children to North Carolina. On a one-month visit to North Carolina, Father decided to keep the children. The district court accorded comity to the German appellate court's decision and granted Mother's Hague petition. The children were ordered to return to Germany. Father appealed. The court rejected Father's arguments on appeal and concluded that the district court properly extended comity because the German court's decision neither clearly misinterpreted the Hague Convention nor failed to meet a minimum standard of reasonableness. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Smedley v. Smedley" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, foreign nationals, alleged that they were tortured and otherwise mistreated by American civilian and military personnel while detained at Abu Ghraib. CACI, a corporation domiciled in the United States, contracted with the United States to provide private interrogators to interrogate detainees at Abu Ghraib. Plaintiffs alleged that CACI employees instigated, directed, participated in, encouraged, and aided and abetted conduct towards detainees that clearly violated federal and international law. The court concluded that the Supreme Court's decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co. does not foreclose plaintiffs' claims under the Alien Tort Statute, 28 U.S.C. 1350, and that the district court erred in reaching a contrary conclusion. In light of Kiobel, the court held that plaintiffs' claims "touch and concern" the territory of the United States with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application of the Alien Tort Statute. Because the court was unable to determine whether the claims presented nonjusticiable political questions, the court did not reach the additional issue of the district court's dismissal of plaintiffs' common law claims. The court vacated the district court's judgment with respect to all plaintiffs' claims and remanded. View "Al Shimari v. CACI Premier Technology, Inc." on Justia Law