Case of the Day: RJR Nabisco v. European Community

oreo cookie
Nabisco’s Oreo cookie. Keeps your milk from getting lonely. Credit: mihoda
I was speaking recently with a Chevronologist who will remain nameless, and we were speculating that perhaps the reason the Second Circuit has delayed so long in announcing its decision in the Chevron v. Donziger case because it was awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision in today’s case of the day, RJR Nabisco v. European Community (S. Ct. 2016), which was decided on June 20. More recently, Steven Donziger himself has trumpeted the Nabisco decision, asserting that the decision was a “major setback” for Chevron. More formally, he argued the importance of the decision to the Second Circuit in a letter submitted under FRAP 28(j). And I have been thinking a good deal about Nabisco in connection with one of my own cases. So I thought it would be worthwhile to feature the case, presenting it primarily through the lens of the Donziger case.
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Salcido-Romo v. Southern Copper Corp.

Workers cleaning up a spill in Sonora, Mexico
Cleaning up the Sonora y Bacanuchi Rivers.
Credit: Cuartoscuro

The case is Salcido-Romo v. Southern Copper Corp. (D. Ariz. 2016). Alberto Salcido-Romo and others were residents of a rural community in Sonora, Mexico. An indirect subsidiary of Southern Copper Corp. operated a mine near their community. In 2014, 10 million gallons of toxic mining waste flowed into a local river, affecting Salcido-Romo and the others. They brought various amparo actions in the Mexican courts against governmental defendants and against the indirect subsidiary that operated the mine. They also planned to bring environmental tort lawsuits against the mine operator and its parent, a Southern Copper Corp. subsidiary. Salcido-Romo sought leave to take discovery under § 1782 for use in the Mexican actions.
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Case of the Day: SPM Thermo-Shield v. SICC GmbH

The case of the day is SPM Thermo-Shield, Inc. v. SICC GmbH (M.D. Fla. 2016). The facts of the case were not reported. SPM tried to effect service on SICC, a German firm, and one of its principals, Waldemar Walczok, by personal service on Walczok when he was in Florida. A judge quashed that service on the grounds that SPM had lured Walczok into the jurisdiction. But SPM had made no effort to serve process via the Hague Service Convention. The defendants moved to dismiss.
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Case of the Day: Puerto Rico v. Franklin California Tax-Free Trust

Reverse of Puerto Rico quarter

The case of the day is Puerto Rico v. Franklin California Tax-Free Trust (S. Ct. 2016). I’m sorry, readers who are looking for service of process or 1782 cases—you’ll have to stick it out for one more day of Puerto Rico coverage. By way of explanation, I take a particular interest in Puerto Rico status issues because the US Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, the federal appellate court here in Boston, hears appeals from the US District Court for the District of Puerto Rico, and because the underlying issues have—for me at least—inherent political and legal interest.
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Case of the Day: Hilt Construction v. Permanent Mission of Chad

The case of the day is Hilt Construction & Management Corp. v. Permanent Mission of Chad to the United Nations (S.D.N.Y. 2016). The claim was that Hilt had a contract with Chad’s mission to the United Nations and its ambassador, Cherif Mahamat, for the renovation of the ambassador’s official residence in New Rochelle. Hilt claimed it was not paid for part of its work and it sued for breach of contract and on a quantum meruit theory. The mission and the ambassador moved to dismiss.
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Case of the Day: Getma v. Guinea

The case of the day is In re Certain Controversies Between Getma International and the Republic of Guinea (D.D.C. 2016). Getma had a contract to develop Guinea’s main port in the capital city, Conakry. The agreement called for arbitration of disputes under the CCJA arbitration rules. When a dispute arose, Getma demanded arbitration. The tribunal ultimately awarded Getma significant damages.

During the proceedings, the CCJA had ordered the parties to pay certain arbitration costs in advance. The tribunal asked the CCJA, which was administering the arbitration, to increase the arbitrators’ fees. The CCJA seemed to encourage or at least countenance this request, and the parties indicated they had no objection. But later, the CCJA rejected the tribunal’s effort to increase the fees, citing its prior precedents. Nevertheless, the tribunal’s award included a demand for € 450,000 in arbitrators’ fees, contrary to the CCJA’s decision. “And somehow, the tribunal eventually collected half of the increased arbitrators’ fees from Getma,” the prevailing party.

Guinea sought to annul the award in proceedings before the CCJA, and the CCJA granted its petition on the grounds that the tribunal had violated the CCJA rules by increasing its fees, which only the CCJA had the authority to do. Getma sought confirmation of the now-annulled award in Washington.
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Case of the Day: Doe v. Ethiopia

The case of the day is Doe v. Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (D.D.C. 2016). The plaintiff, who sued using a pseudonym, was an Ethiopian who had been given political asylum in the US in the 1990s and who was now a US citizen. He alleged that he was an activist in the Ethiopian community, and that the Ethiopian government engaged in electronic surveillance against him and others. The details of the alleged surveillance, as summarized by the court, are interesting. Doe alleged that his personal computer at home had been infected with “FinSpy.”
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Case of the Day: Puerto Rico v. Sánches Valle

Reverse of Puerto Rico quarter

The case of the day is Puerto Rico v. Sánches Valle (S. Ct. 2016). I wrote about the case back in January. The issue is interesting: Sánches Valle was indicted by both a federal grand jury and by Puerto Rico prosecutors on gun trafficking charges. He pleaded guilty to the federal indictment and then moved to dismiss the Puerto Rico indictment on double jeopardy grounds. (For foreign readers, the Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution provides: “nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb”). The main rule in this area is the so-called “dual sovereignty doctrine.” A single “sovereign” cannot put a defendant in jeopardy twice on the same charge, but separate “sovereigns”—for example, the United States and Massachusetts—can.
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Enough Already

Case of the Day: Mutual Benefits Offshore Fund v. Zeltser

The case of the day is Mutual Benefits Offshore Fund v. Zeltser (N.Y. App. Div. 2016). Eagle-eyed reader Ira Matetsky of Ganfer & Shore in New York sent it along. The facts of the case were not reported. The holding: the First Department of the Appellate Division, which hears cases from Manhattan, reversed its earlier precedent and held, correctly, that Article 10(a) of the Hague Service Convention permits service of process by mail in the absence of an objection from the state of destination. This decision resolves a split in the Appellate Division cases. So go to it, New York lawyers!
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