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

Articles Posted in International Law
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Petitioner, a Russian scientist, held a J-1 exchange visitor visa as a researcher sponsored by his employer. In 2010 and 2011, Petitioner received W-2 in the amount of $76,729 and $79,061, respectively. Petitioner filed 1040-NR forms, taking the position that all his earnings were exempt from taxation under the United States-Russia Tax Treaty (“Tax Treaty”). In 2014, the IRS sent Petitioner a notice of deficiency and Petitioner sought relief at the Tax Court.The Tax Court found in favor of Petitioner, holding that his W-2 income was properly considered “a grant, allowance, or similar payments” under the Tax Treaty. The court reasoned that “wages may be eligible for exemption so long as they are similar to a grant or allowance.”The Fourth Circuit reversed. The Tax Treaty provides that salaries, wages, and other similar remuneration are taxable; however, a grant, allowance, or similar payments payable to a person who is studying or doing research is exempt. Adopting the reasoning in Bingler v. Johnson, 394 U.S. 741 (1969), the court held the relevant question is “whether there is a “requirement of any substantial quid pro quo” that distinguishes compensation for employment from a “relatively disinterested, ‘no-string’” grant.” The Fourth Circuit remanded the case to the Tax Court for further proceedings. View "Vitaly Baturin v. Commissioner, Internal Revenue" on Justia Law

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Ali sought to pursue 42 U.S.C. 1983 proceedings challenging as unconstitutional an executive order of Maryland’s Governor that prohibits boycotts of Israel by business entities that bid on the state’s procurement contracts. According to the Initial Complaint, “Ali is a computer software engineer who wishes to submit bids for government software project contracts but is barred from doing so due to the presence of mandatory ‘No Boycott of Israel’ clauses.”The district court dismissed with prejudice Ali’s lawsuit for want of Article III standing to sue. The Fourth Circuit affirmed but modified the judgment to provide that the dismissal is without prejudice. The court first disagreed with Ali’s interpretation of the Order. The Order indicates that if a business entity has engaged in anti-Israel national origin discrimination in the process of preparing a bid for a state procurement contract, the entity is barred from being awarded the contract; if the entity has engaged in a boycott of Israel entirely unrelated to the bid formation process, the Order is of no relevance. The court rejected Ali’s argument that the certification requirement constitutes an unconstitutionally vague loyalty oath. The Order does not require the entity to pledge any loyalty to Israel or profess any other beliefs. View "Ali v. Hogan" on Justia Law

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Berg, a resident of South Carolina, sought recovery of art taken by the Nazis following the German invasion of the Netherlands. Berg’s grandfather was a partner in Firma D. Katz, which owned art galleries specializing in the sale of paintings by Dutch Old Masters. Following World War II, much of the stolen art was returned to the Netherlands by the U.S. military under Collection Point Agreements; the Netherlands agreed to hold the art as “custodians pending the determination of the lawful owners thereof.” Firma D. Katz was liquidated in 1974. The artworks have not been returned to the heirs of its partners. In the District of South Carolina, Berg sued the Kingdom of the Netherlands; its Ministry of Education, Culture & Science, its Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE), and municipal museums in the Netherlands holding the artworks.The Fourth Circuit affirmed that the Ministry and RCE, are political subdivisions of the Netherlands and do not lose Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1602 immunity for artworks located outside of the U.S. which were expropriated in violation of international law. As to the museums, venue was improper in South Carolina under U.S.C. 1391(f). View "Berg v. Kingdom of the Netherlands" on Justia Law

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After the district court entered judgment against defendant on plaintiff's claim of torture under the Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991 (TVPA), defendant challenged the district court's grant of partial summary judgment in favor of plaintiff on defendant's statute of limitations defense.The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment, concluding that the district court did not err in granting partial summary judgment against defendant on his statute of limitations defense where equitable tolling applied to plaintiff's claims. In this case, the district court did not err in determining that plaintiff's unrebutted evidence demonstrated extraordinary circumstances justifying equitable tolling where plaintiff presented credible evidence that he lacked realistic access to a legal remedy during and after the Barre regime in Somalia given the absence of a functioning government, widespread chaos and violence, and the risk of reprisal. Therefore, plaintiff satisfied his burden of showing the appropriateness of equitably tolling the limitations period until at least 1997. View "Warfaa v. Ali" on Justia Law

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In 1994, a California corporation purchased and registered the domain name and trademarks for “France.com.” Twenty years later, the corporation initiated a lawsuit in France, challenging a Dutch company’s use of the France.com trademark. The French Republic and its tourism office intervened, seeking to protect their country’s Internet identity and establish its right to the domain name. French trial and appellate courts declared the French Republic the rightful owner of the domain name. In the U.S., the corporation sued the French entities, which asserted sovereign immunity under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), 28 U.S.C. 1604. The district court denied a motion to dismiss, concluding that immunity “would be best raised after discovery.”The Fourth Circuit reversed, directing the district court to dismiss the complaint with prejudice. The court concluded that it had jurisdiction over the appeal because the district court rested its order not on a failure to state a claim but on a denial of sovereign immunity, which constitutes an appealable collateral order. Neither FSIA’s “commercial activity” exception nor its “expropriation” exception applies. It is not clear that the French State’s actions in obtaining the website in judicial proceedings constitute “seizure” or an “expropriation” and they clearly do not constitute “commercial activity.” The corporation itself invoked the power of the French courts; only because it did so could the French State intervene in that action to obtain the challenged result. View "France.com, Inc. v. The French Republic" on Justia Law

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Seeking evidence to use in a United Kingdom arbitration, Servotronics filed an application in the district court under 28 U.S.C. 1782 to obtain testimony from three Boeing employees residing in South Carolina. On appeal, Servotronics contends that the district court erred in ruling that the UK arbitral panel was not a "foreign tribunal" for purposes of section 1782 and thus it lacked authority to grant Servotronics' application to obtain testimony for use in the UK arbitration.The Fourth Circuit reversed and remanded, holding that the arbitral panel in the United Kingdom is a foreign tribunal for purposes of section 1782. The court explained that the current version of the statute, as amended in 1964, manifests Congress' policy to increase international cooperation by providing U.S. assistance in resolving disputes before not only foreign courts but before all foreign and international tribunals. The court wrote that such a policy was intended to contribute to the orderly resolution of disputes both in the United States and abroad, elevating the importance of the rule of law and encouraging a spirit of comity between foreign countries and the United States. Furthermore, Boeing's argument to the contrary represents too narrow an understanding of arbitration, whether it is conducted in the United Kingdom or the United States. View "Servotronics, Inc. v. The Boeing Co." on Justia Law

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This case stemmed from litigation between SAS and WPL, software developers that compete in the market for statistical analysis software. The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's grant of an expansion injunction and an anti-clawback injunction issued pursuant to its All Writs Act authority. Although the court respected the judicial system and judges of the United Kingdom, the court explained that the district court here needed to ensure that a money judgment reached in an American court under American law—based on damages incurred in America—was not rendered meaningless. In this case, the district court chose to enforce its judgment in the most measured terms, concentrating on the litigants' U.S. conduct and collection efforts. The court wrote that failing to take even these modest steps would have encouraged any foreign company and country to undermine the finality of a U.S. judgment. View "SAS Institute, Inc. v. World Programming Ltd." on Justia Law

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Taxpayer filed a tax refund action against the United States, seeking a refund collected from him by the IRS pursuant to a treaty between the United States and Canada, for income taxes that he owed to Canada in 2006. After both countries executed the Convention Between the United States of America and Canada with Respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital, the Senate ratified it. Under Article 26A, which was later added to the treaty and ratified by the Senate, the United States and Canada agreed to assist each other with the collection of unpaid taxes.The court affirmed the district court's judgment and held that Article 26A merely facilitates collection of an already existing debt and thus did not violate the Origination Clause; Article 26A did not infringe on the Taxing Clause where the Taxing Clause is not an exclusive grant of power to Congress; and thus Article 26A did not require House-originating implementation legislation. The court also held that the IRS can use its domestic assessment authority in pursuit of the collection of a liability owed by a taxpayer to Canada. View "Retfalvi v. United States" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgment after a jury found defendant civilly liable to plaintiff under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act (TVPA). Plaintiff filed suit against defendant for her role in the sexual abuse that plaintiff suffered at the hands of defendant's husband when plaintiff worked as their housekeeper in housing provided by the Embassy of the United States in Yemen.The court held, in light of RJR Nabisco, Inc. v. European Cmty., 136 S. Ct. 2090 (2016), that the TVPA's civil remedy provision applied to defendant's conduct in Yemen in 2007. The court confined its analysis to the text of 18 U.S.C. 1595 and held that section 1595 applied extraterritorially to defendant's conduct. The court also held that the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting another housekeeper's evidence concerning sexual abuse she suffered while working for defendant and her husband. View "Roe v. Howard" on Justia Law

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The Fourth Circuit affirmed defendant's conviction for providing and conspiring to provide material support to terrorists, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 2339A, and conspiring and attempting to destroy an aircraft of the United States Armed Forces, in violation of 18 U.S.C. 32. Defendant was convicted for acts associated with an attack on an Afghan Border Police post at Camp Leyza. As a preliminary matter, the court held that it had jurisdiction to determine whether defendant qualified as a POW and was entitled to combatant immunity under the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, irrespective of Army Regulation 190-8. On the merits, the court held that defendant was not entitled to combatant immunity under the Convention where the conflict in Afghanistan was not an international armed conflict. Consequently, because defendant did not qualify for combatant immunity pursuant to the Third Geneva Convention, he did not qualify for the common law defense of public authority. The court also held that section 32 clearly applied to otherwise lawful military actions committed during armed conflicts. In this case, defendant was convicted of attempting to fire anti-aircraft weapons at U.S. military helicopters, an attack that fell under the plain language of section 32. View "United States v. Hamidullin" on Justia Law