Justia Civil Rights Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in International Law
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Yañez was shot and killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent while on the border fence, which is in the United States. After being shot, Yañez fell and landed across the international border. Yañez’s family filed civil claims against the government and individual federal agents.The Ninth Circuit affirmed the rejection of claims under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) and the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), and a “Bivens” claim. The court rejected an argument that the shooting and Border Patrol’s Rocking Policy, authorizing deadly force in response to rock-throwing, violated an international jus cogens norm against extrajudicial killing and was actionable under the ATS; the ATS does not waive sovereign immunity, even for jus cogens violations. Claims under the FTCA were time-barred. Plaintiff initially did not pursue an FTCA claim because she believed that, under Ninth Circuit precedent, judgment on an FTCA claim would have foreclosed her Bivens claims. Plaintiff amended the complaint to assert FTCA claims after the Supreme Court abrogated that precedent in 2016. The FTCA’s judgment bar did not foreclose a contemporaneously filed Bivens claim when the government had prevailed on the FTCA claim, so the Supreme Court’s decision was irrelevant to this situation. That mistake of law was not outside of plaintiff's control and did not qualify as an extraordinary circumstance supporting equitable tolling. Special factor counseled against extending a Bivens remedy; doing so would challenge a high-level executive policy and implicated national security. View "Quintero-Perez v. United States" on Justia Law

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The district court denied a habeas petition by Al Hela, a Yemeni sheik, challenging his detention at the U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay. Al Hela claims that the President lacked authority to detain him under the Authorization for Use of Military Force, 115 Stat. 224, for substantially supporting Al Qaeda and its associated forces; that he is entitled to release for due process violations; and that the discovery procedures failed to provide him with a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge his detention. The District Court for the District of Columbia has a standing case management order used in many Guantanamo habeas cases to manage discovery and to protect classified information from unwarranted disclosure. The D.C. Circuit affirmed, finding that the President has authority to detain Al Hela, who “substantially supported” enemy forces irrespective of whether he also directly supported those forces or participated in hostilities. Al Hela’s supportive conduct was not “vitiated by the passage of time.” The proceedings below complied with the requirements of the Suspension Clause, which provides that “[t]he Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.” Guantanamo detainees are entitled to a “meaningful opportunity” to challenge the basis for their detention, not a perfect one. The Due Process Clause may not be invoked by aliens without property or presence in the sovereign territory of the United States. View "Al-Hela v. Trump" on Justia Law

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U.S. Border Patrol Agent Mesa, standing on U.S. soil shot and killed Hernández, a 15-year-old Mexican national, who was on Mexican soil, after having run back across the border after entry onto U.S. territory. Mesa contends that Hernández was part of an illegal border crossing attempt. Hernández’s parents claim he was playing a game with his friends that involved running across the culvert. The Department of Justice concluded that Mesa had not violated Customs and Border Patrol policy or training, and declined to bring charges. The government denied Mexico’s request for Mesa to be extradited. Hernández’s parents sought damages under "Bivens," alleging that Mesa violated Hernández’s Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights. The Fifth Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the suit. On remand from the Supreme Court for reconsideration in light of "Ziglar," the Fifth Circuit again affirmed.The Supreme Court affirmed. Bivens does not extend to claims based on a cross-border shooting. Its expansion to recognize causes of action not expressly created by Congress is “a disfavored’ judicial activity.” While Hernández’s Bivens claims are based on the same constitutional provisions as claims in cases in which damages remedies have been recognized, the context—a cross-border shooting—is significantly different and involves a “risk of disruptive intrusion by the Judiciary into the functioning of other branches.” The Court noted that foreign relations are “so exclusively entrusted to the political branches . . . as to be largely immune from judicial inquiry” and noted the risk of undermining border security. Congress has repeatedly declined to authorize the award of damages against federal officials for injury inflicted outside U. S. borders. When Congress has provided compensation for such injuries, it has done so by empowering Executive Branch officials to make payments under appropriate circumstances. View "Hernandez v. Mesa" on Justia Law

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Carrillo was involved in an extramarital relationship with Noeller. Carrillo’s family reported that Noeller called Carrillo, accused her of seeing someone else, and threatened her life; Noeller later came to her mother’s Mexico City house, where he shot and killed her. Noeller maintains that he ended their relationship after finding out about her family’s affiliation with the Los Pepes gang and Zetas drug cartel. He says that after the murder, he received warnings that Carrillo’s mother had hired hitmen to kill him. Noeller fled for the U.S. with his wife and children, who are U.S. citizens. Noeller's family members provided affidavits describing incidents after he left, in which gang members came to their homes looking for Noeller, threatened them, and beat them. During removal proceedings, 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(6)(A)(i), Noeller sought asylum, withholding of removal, and protection under the Convention Against Torture. Immigration judges twice denied his applications. Noeller’s BIA appeal was pending when Mexico submitted its extradition request. Noeller challenged the warrant issued in Mexico by an “Amparo proceeding,” which is “similar to habeas corpus ... to review and annul unconstitutional judicial decisions.” Noeller claims that the court in Mexico suspended the warrant. Mexico’s government contends that the original arrest warrant remains enforceable. The district court granted extradition. Noeller sought habeas corpus relief. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the denial of relief. Mexico submitted a valid request for extradition, which U.S. courts must honor. Noeller’s challenges to that request are “beyond the narrow role for courts in the extradition process.” View "Noeller v. Wojdylo" on Justia Law

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Asgari came to the U.S. for education, earning a doctorate in 1997. He returned to Iran and became a professor at Sharif University. His work involves transmission electron microscopy. Asgari traveled to the U.S. in 2011, stating on his visa application that he planned to visit New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles. He traveled to Cleveland to see an Iranian-American friend at Case Western’s Swagelok Center. They began collaborating. Asgari returned to Iran and obtained another visa for “temp[orary] business[/]pleasure,” identifying his destination as his son’s New York address. He applied for a job at Swagelok. The FBI investigated. The Center’s director stated that Asgari was on a sabbatical from Sharif University; that the Center conducted Navy-funded research; and that an opening had emerged on the project. Agent Boggs obtained a warrant to search Asgari’s personal email account for evidence that Asgari made materially false statements in his visa application and that Asgari violated the prohibition on exporting “any goods, technology, or services to Iran.” Based on information uncovered from that 2013 search, the government obtained another warrant to search Asgari’s subsequent emails. Indicted on 13 counts of stealing trade secrets, wire fraud, and visa fraud, Asgari successfully moved to suppress the evidence. The Sixth Circuit reversed, applying the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule. The affidavit was not “so skimpy, so conclusory, that anyone ... would necessarily have known it failed to demonstrate probable cause.” The sanctions on Iran are broad; probable cause is a lenient standard. View "United States v. Asgari" on Justia Law

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Following remand from the United States Supreme Court, the Fifth Circuit held that this case was not a garden variety excessive force case against a federal law enforcement officer. Plaintiffs alleged that a law enforcement agent used deadly force without justification against a fifteen year old boy, violating the Fourth and Fifth Amendments, when they fatally shot him across the United States-Mexico border. At issue was whether federal courts have the authority to craft an implied damages action for alleged constitutional violations in this case under Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of Fed. Bureau of Narcotics, 403 U.S. 388, 91 S. Ct. 1999 (1971). The court noted that no federal statute authorizes a damages action by a foreign citizen injured on foreign soil by a federal law enforcement officer under these circumstances. The court held that the transnational aspect of the facts presented a "new context" under Bivens, and numerous "special factors" counseled against federal courts' interference with the Executive and Legislative branches of the federal government. Therefore, the court affirmed the district court's dismissal of the case. View "Hernandez v. Mesa, Jr." on Justia Law

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Stellar and Allied are American companies. Stellar sent Allied's Mexican distributors notice letters accusing them of infringing Stellar’s Mexican Patent. Allied manufactures the accused products in the U.S., which are then sold in Mexico by the distributors. Allied sells the same product in the U.S. under a different name. Allied’s U.S. counsel responded to Stellar’s notice letters on behalf of the distributors, arguing that the products did not infringe. Stellar did not respond but filed infringement actions in Mexico. Allied then sought a declaratory judgment against Stellar in the Southern District of Florida, of non-infringement, invalidity, unenforceability due to inequitable conduct, and tortious interference with business relationships. The district court dismissed for lack of subject matter jurisdiction, stating: “Stellar’s decision to enforce its Mexican patent under Mexican law against separate entities cannot, without further affirmative action by Stellar, create an actual controversy with Allied with regard to its U.S. Patent,” and that the complaint was “devoid of any allegations that Stellar has done anything to give Allied a reasonable belief that Stellar intends to enforce its 974 Patent in the United States.” The Federal Circuit affirmed. Stellar’s actions do not create a justiciable case or controversy. View "Allied Mineral Products, Inc. v. OSMI, Inc." on Justia Law

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In 2010, a U.S. Border Patrol agent standing on U.S. soil shot and killed Hernandez, an unarmed 15-year-old Mexican national, standing on Mexican soil. Hernandez had been playing a game that involved running up the embankment on the U.S. side of the border. After the Justice Department closed an investigation, declining to file charges, Hernandez’s parents filed suit, including a “Bivens” claims for damages against the agent. The Fifth Circuit affirmed dismissal. The Supreme Court vacated and remanded. A “Bivens” implied right of action for damages against federal officers alleged to have violated a citizen’s constitutional rights is not available where there are special factors counselling hesitation in the absence of affirmative action by Congress. In light of recent Supreme Court precedent (Abbasi), the Fifth Circuit must consider “whether the Judiciary is well suited, absent congressional action or instruction, to consider and weigh the costs and benefits of allowing a damages action to proceed.” The Court noted that the Fourth Amendment question is sensitive and may have far-reaching consequences. Qualified immunity shields officials from civil liability if their conduct does not violate clearly established constitutional rights of which a reasonable person would have known. The lower court concluded that the prohibition on excessive force did not apply to Hernandez, as a foreign national on foreign soil, but the Court noted that Hernández’s nationality and the extent of his ties to the U.S. were unknown to the agent at the time of the shooting. View "Hernandez v. Mesa" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs filed suit seeking to hold the Palestinian Authority vicariously liable for an attack of a holy site in the West Bank by an armed gunman. The court rejected plaintiffs' claim that the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause imposes personal jurisdiction restrictions that are less protective of defendants than those imposed by the Fourteenth Amendment, explaining that precedent foreclosed this claim. Therefore, the court concluded that plaintiffs failed to carry their burden of demonstrating that personal jurisdiction over the Palestinian Authority in this case would meet the requirements of the Fifth Amendment's Due Process Clause. Accordingly, the court affirmed the district court's denial of plaintiffs' motions for jurisdictional discovery and its grant of the Palestinian Authority's motions to dismiss for lack of personal jurisdiction. View "Livnat v. Palestinian Authority" on Justia Law

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In 1963, the Republic of Guinea entered into an agreement with Halco establishing the Compagnie des Bauxites de Guinée (CBG) for the purpose of developing Guinea's rich bauxite mines. Nanko filed suit against Alcoa, alleging breach of the CBG Agreement, asserting that it was a third-party beneficiary thereof, and another for racial discrimination in violation of 42 U.S.C.1981. Nanko later added Halco as a defendant and asserted an additional claim against Alcoa for tortious interference with contractual relations. The district court dismissed the case under Rule 12(b)(7) for failure to join Guinea as a required Rule 19 party. The court concluded that the district court's Rule 19 holding failed to fully grapple with Nanko's allegations and that those allegations, accepted as true, state a claim for racial discrimination under section 1981. The court reasoned that, insofar as the existing parties' interests are concerned, evidence of Guinea's actions, views, or prerogatives can be discovered and introduced where relevant to the parties' claims and defenses even if Guinea remained a nonparty. At this stage in the pleadings, the court did not believe that the allegations could be reasonably read to show that Guinea was a necessary party. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded. View "Nanko Shipping, USA v. Alcoa" on Justia Law