Justia U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in International Law
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The case involves Kholkar Vishveshwar Ganpat, an Indian citizen, who contracted malaria while working as a crew member on a Liberian-flagged ship managed by Eastern Pacific Shipping Pte., Limited (EPS), a Singaporean company. Ganpat alleges that EPS failed to adequately provision the ship with antimalarial medication for its voyage to Gabon, a high-risk malaria area in Africa. Ganpat's illness resulted in gangrene, amputation of several toes, and a 76-day hospitalization. He filed a lawsuit against EPS in the United States, seeking relief under the Jones Act and the general maritime law of the United States. He also asserted a contractual claim for disability benefits.The district court initially deferred making a choice-of-law ruling. However, after discovery, the court ruled that the law of the United States (the Jones Act and general maritime law) governs Ganpat’s tort claims and claim for breach of the collective bargaining agreement. EPS appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reversed the district court's decision. The appellate court disagreed with the district court's assessment of the Lauritzen-Rhoditis factors, which are used to determine whether maritime claims are governed by the law of the United States or the conflicting law of a foreign nation. The appellate court found that none of the factors that the Supreme Court has deemed significant to the choice-of-law determination in traditional maritime shipping cases involve the United States. The court concluded that Ganpat’s maritime tort and contract claims should be adjudicated under the substantive law of Liberia, the flag state of the ship on which Ganpat was working when he contracted malaria. The case was remanded for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. View "Ganpat v. Eastern Pacific Shipping" on Justia Law

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In this case, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit considered an appeal by Jose Guadalupe Diaz-Diaz and Martin Perez-Marrufo, two members of the Barrio Azteca gang, who were convicted for their involvement in the murders of three people in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in 2011. The defendants separately appealed their convictions and sentences, specifically questioning whether sufficient evidence existed to support their convictions for conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country under 18 U.S.C. § 956(a)(1). Diaz also challenged his aiding-and-abetting convictions and his three consecutive life sentences for his convictions under 18 U.S.C. § 924(c) and (j). Perez-Marrufo also challenged an obstruction of justice enhancement imposed at sentencing.The court held that sufficient evidence existed to support the defendants' convictions for conspiracy to commit murder in a foreign country. The court also affirmed the obstruction of justice sentencing enhancement in Perez-Marrufo's case and the sufficiency of the evidence to support Diaz's convictions for aiding and abetting in Salcido's murder. However, the court held that the district court erred in imposing mandatory consecutive life sentences for Diaz's three section 924(j) convictions and remanded the case for resentencing on these counts. View "USA v. Diaz Diaz" on Justia Law

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In 2023, the State of Texas, under the direction of Governor Greg Abbott, installed a floating barrier in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, Texas. The United States government filed a civil enforcement action against Texas, alleging that the installation of the barrier violated the Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act of 1899 (“RHA”). The United States sought a preliminary injunction, which was granted by the district court, ordering Texas to cease work on the barrier and to relocate it to the Texas riverbank. Texas appealed this decision.The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit affirmed the district court's decision. The Court of Appeals found that the United States demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits of its RHA claims. The court determined that the part of the Rio Grande where the barrier was installed was a navigable waterway and that the barrier constituted an obstruction to this waterway. The court also found that the barrier was a structure as defined by the RHA and that it had been constructed without necessary authorization.In addition, the court found that the United States had demonstrated that it was likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief. The court noted that the barrier strained diplomatic relations with Mexico, interfered with the ability of the International Boundary and Water Commission to implement the provisions of a treaty concerning the allocation of waters in the Rio Grande, and posed a risk to human life.The court also held that the balance of equities favored the United States and that the issuance of a preliminary injunction was in the public interest. Specifically, the court noted that the barrier threatened navigation and federal government operations on the Rio Grande, and also posed a potential threat to human life.Taking all of these factors into account, the court ruled that the district court did not abuse its discretion in granting a preliminary injunction ordering Texas to cease work on the barrier and to relocate it. View "USA v. Abbott, No. 23-50632 (5th Cir. 2023)" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff and Defendant had two children together. After the couple separated, the children remained in Mexico with Galaviz. In July 2021, Defendant took the children to El Paso and refused to return them. Plaintiff filed an action in the district court requesting the return of the children to Mexico under the Hague Convention. Defendant raised two affirmative defenses claiming that returning the children would violate their fundamental right to an education and would expose them to a grave risk of harm or an intolerable situation. The district court concluded that Defendant had satisfied his burden and denied Plaintiff’s request for the return of the children. Plaintiff appealed.   The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court explained that in the present case, the district court’s findings regarding the children’s healthcare, including the children’s cognitive decline, the fact that they remained non-verbal, or their regression to using diapers, may be supported by evidence that would be sufficient in a custody dispute. However, this evidence falls short of meeting Defendant’s clear and convincing burden. Finally, Defendant presented no evidence that unsuitable childcare would expose the children to a grave risk of harm. He merely expressed concern that Plaintiff often left the children with her older daughters, and they did not take care of the children. This is not clear and convincing evidence of a grave risk of harm. View "Galaviz v. Reyes" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Noble House, L.L.C. (“Noble House”) appealed a judgment of dismissal, without prejudice, based on forum non conveniens, granted in favor of Defendant Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London (“Underwriters”). The district court ruled that the parties’ insurance policy contained an enforceable forum-selection clause requiring litigation in the courts of England and Wales and that a return-jurisdiction clause was not required.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed. The court held that although there are arguably two forum-selection clauses at play, one foreign and one domestic, the district court concluded that the forum-election clause selecting the courts of England and Wales controls. Noble House does not dispute this conclusion in its opening brief. Nor does Noble House dispute that the foreign forum-selection clause is mandatory. Only the foreign forum-selection clause’s enforceability is contested, which is addressed under the “unreasonable under the circumstances” framework – not the usual “available and adequate” framework. Further, the court held that Noble House does not carry its “heavy burden of proof” to show that the clause selecting the courts of England and Wales is unreasonable under the circumstances. Moreover, Noble House offers no compelling reason justifying its filing in Texas or why its action could not be filed timely in the foreign fora. Accordingly, the court held that the district court did not err when it: (1) concluded that the foreign forum-selection clause is enforceable, or (2) failed to include a return-jurisdiction clause and total waiver of any statute-of-limitations defenses. View "Noble House v. Certain Underwriters" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff, a citizen of India, worked as a crew member on the Stargate, a merchant ship managed by the Singapore-based shipping company Eastern Pacific. Plaintiff brought suit against Eastern Pacific in the Eastern District of Louisiana, alleging tort claims under the Jones Act and general maritime law, as well as contract claims arising from a collective bargaining agreement. In March 2020—after Plaintiff brought his complaint and Eastern Pacific consented to federal court jurisdiction, but before Plaintiff perfected service—Eastern Pacific sued Plaintiff in Goa, India. In the Indian suit, Eastern Pacific sought an anti-suit injunction to prevent Plaintiff from litigating in American court. Plaintiff sought an anti-suit injunction to prohibit Eastern Pacific from prosecuting its Indian suit against him. Finding the Indian litigation vexatious and oppressive and determining that it need not show comity to the Indian court that had attempted to enjoin the American suit, the district court granted the injunction in favor of Plaintiff. Eastern Pacific appealed the district court’s grant of the anti-suit injunction.   The Fifth Circuit affirmed, holding that there is no basis to conclude that the district court abused its discretion in granting the anti-suit injunction. The court reasoned that the district court was well within its discretion to conclude that the vexatiousness of the Indian litigation outweighed any comity concerns. View "Ganpat v. Eastern Pacific Shipping" on Justia Law

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In 2008, Intervenors-Appellees Caterpillar Financial Services Asia Pte Ltd (“Caterpillar”) and Eksportfinans ASA (“Eksportfinans”) provided a loan to Marfield Limited Incorporated (“Marfield”) for the construction of an offshore construction vessel. To secure payment of this loan, Marfield executed and delivered a First Preferred Naval Mortgage to Eksportfinans and a Second Preferred Naval Mortgage to Caterpillar on December 19, 2008. As further security for outstanding sums owed to Caterpillar, Marfield executed a Third Preferred Naval Mortgage on April 17, 2014, encumbering the vessel. The vessel was flagged in Panama, so all three of those mortgages were submitted to the Panama government.In 2012, Caterpillar and Intervenor-Appellee the Norwegian Government (“Norway”) provided a loan to Shanara Maritime International S.A. (“Shanara”) for the construction of another offshore construction vessel. Once both vessels were complete, there were chartered until early 2014, when the Mexican government seized them. On February 28, 2014, Marfield and Shanara terminated their bareboat charters of the vessels, and the vessels remained in the Mexican government’s custody. Shanara and Marfield could not generate revenue on the vessels and began to fall behind on their loan payments to IntervenorsAppellees Caterpillar, Norway, KFW, and Eksportfinans (collectively, the “Lenders”). Shortly after that, the Mexican government separately seized the vessels in connection with the bankruptcy.Subsequently, the district court entered findings, including that (1) Marfield and Shanara are in default under the loan agreements; and (2) the Lenders’ preferred ship mortgages related to said default outrank Plaintiff's state-created liens arising from PLaintiff's attachment of the vessells under Texas state law. The Fifth Circuit affirmed, finding no clear error. View "Corporativo Grupo v. Marfield Ltd" on Justia Law

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According to the indictment, Defendant, a citizen of Switzerland and a partner in a Swiss wealth-management firm, and co-Defendant, a citizen of Portugal and Switzerland and an employee of a different Swiss wealth-management firm (together, “Defendants”), engaged in an international bribery scheme wherein U.S.-based businesses paid bribes to Venezuelan officials for priority payment of invoices and other favorable treatment from Venezuela’s state-owned energy company. A grand jury returned a nineteen-count indictment charging Defendants with various offenses stemming from their alleged international bribery scheme. The district court granted Defendants’ motions to dismiss.   The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded. The court held that the district court’s grant of Defendants’ motions to dismiss was improper because the indictment adequately conforms to minimal constitutional standards. Further, the indictment did not violate co-Defendant’s due process rights. Moreover, the court wrote the district court’s conclusion that Section 3292 failed to toll the statute of limitations is erroneous. The court explained that the totality of the circumstances indicates that a reasonable person in co-Defendant’s position would not have equated the restraint on his freedom of movement with formal arrest. View "USA v. Murta" on Justia Law

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This appeal concerns an alleged international bribery scheme between U.S.-based businesses and Venezuelan officials. On Defendants’ motions, the district court dismissed all counts charged against them and suppressed statements made during an interview. The government timely appealed.   The Fifth Circuit reversed. First, the court held that because extraterritoriality concerns the merits of the case, not the court’s power to hear it, the district court erred in concluding that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over these counts. Further, Defendants’ contention that the indictment does not sufficiently allege that they are agents of a domestic concern does not lend itself to the conclusion that the indictment is inherently insufficient. Moreover, the term “agent” is not unconstitutionally vague as applied to Defendants. Additionally, the court wrote that the allegations that Defendants engaged in conduct that occurred in part in the Southern District of Texas satisfy the money-laundering statute’s extraterritorial provision. The district court erred in concluding otherwise. Finally, the environment in which the agents questioned Defendant, wherein his attorney could safeguard against police coercion, does not present the same inherently coercive pressures as the station-house questioning at issue in Miranda. The district court’s order suppressing the statements, then, was erroneous. View "USA v. Murta" on Justia Law

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The principal issue in this appeal of a 28 U.S.C. § 1782(a) discovery order is whether, in response to the ex parte order authorizing discovery by “interested parties” for use in foreign litigation, the respondents have a right to challenge the order’s validity pursuant to statutory requirements and the Supreme Court’s “Intel factors.”    The Fifth Circuit reversed and remanded, concluding that the district court here misconstrued the court’s precedent and erroneously rebuffed Respondents’ challenge on its face. The court explained that the uncontested facts suggest the possibility that (a) some of the sought discovery is accessible currently in the foreign courts; (b) Appellees’ object here is to obtain unredacted copies of that which may be protected by law in the Portuguese proceedings; and (c) therefore, the requests in many aspects pose an undue burden on the appellants. The court wrote it does not express an opinion on these points but notes that they were never thoroughly vetted in the district court because of the court’s refusal to reconsider the Intel factors and the truncated discussion of “interested parties” under Section 1728(a). Thus, by refusing to consider Appellants’ arguments and evidence challenging whether the Appellees satisfied the statutory criteria and the Intel factors to obtain Section 1782(a) discovery, the district court misapplied the law and abused its discretion. View "Banca Pueyo SA v. Lone Star Fund IX" on Justia Law