Justia Admiralty & Maritime Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in International Law
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Miranda and Carvajal, citizens of Colombia, participated in an operation that used high-speed boats to smuggle drugs from Colombia to Central American countries. Neither planned to, or did, leave Colombia in furtherance of the conspiracy. Carvajal was an organizer of the operations, and Miranda provided logistical support. In 2011, Colombian officials arrested them. They were extradited to the United States and pleaded guilty to drug conspiracy charges under the Maritime Drug Law Enforcement Act (MDLEA) 46 U.S.C. 70501. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, rejecting their arguments that the MDLEA was unconstitutional as applied to their conduct, that the MDLEA fails to reach extraterritorially to encompass their conduct in Colombia, and that the facts failed to support acceptance of their guilty pleas. They waived all but one of the arguments when they entered pleas of guilty without reserving any right to appeal. Their remaining claim, whether vessels used by the drug conspiracy were “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” within the meaning of the MDLEA, implicates the district court’s subject-matter jurisdiction and could not be waived by appellants’ pleas. On the merits of the issue, the stipulated facts fully supported the conclusion that the vessels were subject to U.S. jurisdiction. View "United States v. Miranda" 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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The Neutrality Act, 18 U.S.C. 962, passed in 1794, is generally recognized as the first instance of municipal legislation in support of the obligations of neutrality. The Act makes it unlawful to furnish, fit out, or arm a vessel within the U.S. with the intent of having the vessel used in the service of a foreign state or people to commit hostilities against another foreign state or people with whom the U.S. is at peace. Vessels covered by the Act are subject to forfeiture, and persons who give information leading to the seizure of such vessels may recover a bounty. Bauer sought to pursue a claim under the Act, claiming to have informed the government of vessels that had been funded, furnished, and fitted by anti-Israel organizations in the U.S., together with violent and militant anti-Israel organizations from other countries. The complaint alleged that the vessels were to be employed in the service of Hamas, a terrorist organization in the Gaza Strip, to commit hostilities against Israel. The district court dismissed, holding that the statute lacks an express private cause of action. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, holding that informers lack standing to sue on their own. View "Bauer v. Mavi Marmara" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, the crew of an Ecuadorian fishing boat, filed suit against the United States, alleging that the United States harmed plaintiffs and their property when the Coast Guard boarded the boat in search of drugs. The court held that, on the evidence submitted by the parties, reciprocity with Ecuador existed; the discretionary function exception applied generally to plaintiffs' claims because most of the actions by the Coast Guard were discretionary; the government could have violated its non-discretionary policy of paying damages to the owner of the boat; and to the extent that plaintiffs could establish that the United States violated that mandatory obligation, sovereign immunity did not bar this action. Accordingly, the court affirmed in part, vacated in part, and remanded for further proceedings. View "Tobar v. United States" on Justia Law

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The government appealed the district court's order which altered the terms of a bond the Coast Guard had fixed for the release of a detained ship that was under investigation and restricted the types of penalties the government could seek for the ship's potential violations of certain ocean pollution prevention statutes. The ship at issue, the Pappadakis, an ocean-going bulk cargo carrier carrying a shipment of coal to Brazil, was detained by the Coast Guard because the vessel had likely been discharging bilge water overboard. The court reversed and remanded for dismissal under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) where the matter was not subject to review in the district court because the Coast Guard's actions were committed to agency discretion by law. Consequently, the district court lacked jurisdiction to consider the petition. View "Angelex Ltd. v. United States" 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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This case involved claims brought by cabin stewards against their employer, Celebrity Cruises, and against the Union (FIT) that represented them. Because the stewards were foreign employees involved in an internal wage dispute with a foreign ship, neither the Labor Management Relations Act (LMRA), 29 U.S.C. 185, nor the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA), 29 U.S.C. 159, applied to the stewards' challenges. Since their claims were dependent upon the protections of those acts, the district court properly dismissed their claims against Celebrity and FIT. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court in Appeal No. 10-13623. Because the stewards could have raised their Seaman's Wage Act, 46 U.S.C. 10313, claim in Lobo II but did not, the court affirmed the district court's order in Gomez as barred by the doctrine of res judicata. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court in Appeal No. 10-10406 View "Lobo, et al v. Celebrity Cruises, Inc., et al" on Justia Law

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This case arose when an oil tanker sank off the cost of Spain, releasing large quantities of oil into the ocean. Spain subsequently appealed the district court's holding that defendants were entitled to summary judgment because, in the circumstances presented, Defendant ABS and its subsidiaries did not owe Spain a duty in tort in connection with ABS's inspection of the tanker. Without reaching that issue, the court concluded that even if such a duty were owed, Spain did not introduce evidence sufficient to create a genuine issue of material fact as to whether defendants recklessly breached the duty. Therefore, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Reino De Espana v. Bureau of Shipping" on Justia Law

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MARPOL is the common name for the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, 1340 U.N.T.S. 62. At issue was whether the United States had jurisdiction to prosecute a nominated surveyor for knowingly violating the MARPOL treaty while aboard a foreign vessel docked in the United States. After thorough review of the relevant treaty and U.S. law, the court held that the United States had jurisdiction to prosecute surveyors for MARPOL violations committed in U.S. ports. Further, under the court's lenient standards of review for issues raised for the first time on appeal, the court found no reversible error in the indictment or jury instructions. Finally, the court affirmed the district court's denial of judgment of acquittal. Accordingly, the court affirmed defendant's conviction. View "United States v. Pena" 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