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

Articles Posted in Admiralty & Maritime Law
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Defendant appealed his convictions stemming from his involvement in conducting the negotiations for the ransom of a ship seized by pirates and for his participation in the torture of the ship's crew as part of the process. The court affirmed defendant's piracy convictions in Counts 1 and 7, based on his intentionally facilitating two piracies on the high seas, even though his facilitating conduct took place in Somalia and its territorial waters; affirmed the district court's ruling denying defendant's motion to dismiss the indictment for lack of personal jurisdiction based on his being brought into the United States involuntarily; universal jurisdiction was irrelevant to the prosecution of Counts 2 through 6 and each of those counts was based on a statute that Congress validly applied to extraterritorial conduct, including defendant's conduct; and the district court did not abuse its discretion in admitting an FBI agent's testimony because they were admitted only as prior inconsistent statements. The court rejected defendant's Crawford v. Washington claim and affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "United States v. Shibin" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit against Sudan after the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole and the district court found Sudan liable under the Death on the High Seas Act (DOHSA), 46 U.S.C. 30301 et seq. On appeal, plaintiffs challenged the district court's conclusion that the DOHSA action precluded their subsequent federal cause of action under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1605. The court concluded that the various provisions of section 1083 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (NDAA), Pub. L. No. 110-181, 122 Stat. 3, were inapplicable here and, therefore, the court declined to consider the constitutionality of NDAA section 1083; the district court did not abuse its discretion when, as part of a close look, considered sua sponte whether res judicata barred plaintiffs' claims; but the court concluded, however, that res judicata should not apply here. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "Clodfelter v. Republic of Sudan" on Justia Law

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The Village commenced this action against the Corps to require it to honor commitments made to the Village and other North Carolina towns when developing its plan to widen, deepen, and realign portions of the Cape Fear River navigation channel. The district court dismissed the complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The court agreed with the district court's holding that the Corps' failure to implement "commitments" made to the Village during development of the plans for the project was not final agency action subject to judicial review. The court also concluded that the alleged contracts on which the Village relied for its contract claims were not maritime contracts that justified the exercise of admiralty jurisdiction. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Village of Bald Head Island v. U. S. Army Corps" on Justia Law

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Vitol brought the underlying action against S&P seeking to "pierce the corporate veil" and enforce a judgment against S&P it had previously obtained against Capri Marine. The district court granted motions to dismiss and to vacate attachment filed by S&P after determining that its exercise of admiralty jurisdiction was proper. The court agreed that the district court properly exercised admiralty jurisdiction over Vitol's claims. On the merits, however, the court concluded that dismissal was appropriate pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) where Vitol's allegations were conclusory and contained legal conclusions couched as factual allegations, and the district court's order of attachment was properly vacated. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Vitol, S.A. v. Capri Marine LTD" on Justia Law

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Defendants, all Somalis, were convicted, among other things, of the crime of piracy under 18 U.S.C. 1651 after they launched an attack on the USS Nicholas on the high seas between Somalia and the Seychelles. On appeal, defendants challenged their convictions and sentences on several grounds, including that their attack on the USS Nicholas did not, as a matter of law, amount to a section 1651 piracy offense. Because the district court correctly applied the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, art. 101, definition of piracy as customary international law, the court rejected defendants' challenge to their Count One piracy convictions, as well as their mandatory life sentences. Defendants raised several additional appellate contentions which the court also rejected. Accordingly, the court affirmed the convictions and sentences of each of the defendants. View "United States v. Dire; United States v. Ali; United States v. Umar; United States v. Gurewardher; United States v. Hasan" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a citizen of the Philippines, brought suit against defendants for damages arising from severe injuries he sustained aboard the M/V Asian Spirit in the Chesapeake Bay near Baltimore. Plaintiff's complaint alleged multiple clams against defendants, including unseaworthiness, maintenance and cure, breach of contract, violation of the Seaman's Wage Act, 46 U.S.C. 10313(i), and negligence under general maritime law and the Jones Act, 46 U.S.C. 30104. The court affirmed the district court's judgment that the Arbitration Clause at issue was enforceable and that plaintiff must arbitrate his claims against defendants in the Philippines. Nevertheless, the court vacated the dismissal of the case and remanded for reinstatement thereof, for assessment of the injunction request, for entry of a stay pending arbitration to ensure that plaintiff would have an opportunity at the award-enforcement stage for judicial review of his public policy defense based on the prospective waiver doctrine, and for such other and further proceedings. View "Aggarao, Jr. v. Mol Ship Mgmt. Co." on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of a case involving an allision, collision between a moving vessel and a stationary object, between a USACE vessel and a private yacht, the Marquessa, owned and operated by appellants. Appellants appealed from the district court's award of damages in their favor, arguing that it was infirm in various respects. The court held that the district court did not err in applying the doctrine of constructive total loss; the district court reasonably credited testimony establishing a market value for the Marquessa; there was an insufficient basis in the record for determining the fact or extent of the alleged damage to the antennas and computers; and the district court did not err in amending its initial judgment to account for appellants' stipulation. Accordingly, the judgment of the district court was affirmed. View "F.C. Wheat Maritime Corp. v. United States" on Justia Law

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This case involved the Carmack Amendment to the Interstate Commerce Act, 49 U.S.C. 14706, which set up a framework for the timely filing of claims against carriers for damaged cargo. In this case, it was undisputed that neither the shipper nor the shipping broker filed either a claim or a lawsuit within the prescribed time limitations. Therefore, were the court to create some exception to the statutorily authorized, contractually mandated requirements of prompt filing, the court would blow a hole in the balance struck by the Carmack Amendment and undermine Congress's intent to protect carriers against stale claims. Therefore, the court reversed the judgment of the district court in favor of the shipping broker and remanded with instructions to dismiss the lawsuit.