Case of the Day: Davoyan v. Republic of Turkey

The case of the day, Davoyan v. Republic of Turkey (C.D. Cal. 2011), is a putative class action by Armenians and their heirs who claim that they were “deprived of their citizenship, brutally deported, had their property seized and expropriated by the Turkish government” during the Ottoman period. The claims were for imposition of a constructive trust, breach of a “statutory trust”, unjust enrichment, an accounting, and violations of international law.

The plaintiffs sought to serve Turkey with the summons and complaint via the Turkish central authority. The central authority refused to execute the letter of request under Article 13 and asserted its sovereign immunity. Rather than attempting to make service under the alternate methods prescribed by the FSIA, namely by a form of mail requiring a signed receipt to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or through the diplomatic channel, the plaintiffs asked the court to “validate” the service they had attempted to make or, in the alternative, to authorize alternate methods of service under Rule 4(f).

The court denied the motion. It held that the plaintiffs had failed to make service under the Convention because the Turkish central authority had refused to execute the letter of request under Article 13, which provides:

Where a request for service complies with the terms of the present Convention, the State addressed may refuse to comply therewith only if it deems that compliance would infringe its sovereignty or security.

Under Article 14, disputes concerning compliance with the Convention were to be resolved through the diplomatic channel, not by the courts:

Difficulties which may arise in connection with the transmission of judicial documents for service shall be settled through diplomatic channels.

 The court could not authorize alternative methods of service, because the four methods of service prescribed by FSIA were exclusive.

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