Case of the Day: Villoldo v. Castro

The case of the day is Villoldo v. Castro (1st Cir. 2016). Westlaw calls the case Villoldo v. Ruz. I’m no Spanish naming convention expert, but that seems clearly wrong. Anyway, Alfredo and Gustavo Villoldo were Cuban brothers. In 1959, the Cuban government confiscated their father’s property and threatened them, even after they fled to Miami. The brothers sued the Cuban government and high officials, namely Fidel and Raul Castro, in the Florida state court in 2008. The Florida case ended in a $2.79 billion default judgment. The brothers then sued on the Florida judgment in the federal court in New York. Again, the case ended in a default judgment. The brothers registered the judgment in the District of Massachusetts, and the District Court authorized them to seek an attachment. So the brothers served a subpoena on Computershare, a transfer agent in Canton, Massachusetts. Computershare produced documents identifying hundreds of securities accounts blocked under the Cuban Assets Control Regulations. The brothers moved for an order requiring Computershare to turn over the accounts and filed a trustee process complaint against Computershare. Computershare argued that the accounts were not the property of Cuba and thus could not be turned over to satisfy the judgment. After some procedural complexities, the district court ultimately concluded that the accounts were not subject to the turnover order.

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Case of the Day: Jerez v. Republic of Cuba

The case of the day is Jerez v. Republic of Cuba (D.C. Cir. 2014). This is the appeal from the case of the day from September 13, 2013. Nilo Jerez claimed he had been tortured by the Cuban government in the 1960s and 1970s. In 2005, he sued Cuba in a Florida state court under the Torture Victim Protection Act, and he obtained a default judgment. Jerez then sued on the judgment in the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida which recognized the Florida judgment after Cuba again defaulted. Then Jerez registered the new federal judgment in the District of Columbia and sought to attach patents and trademarks said to be owned by instrumentalities of Cuba. The US District Court in Washington refused to attach the intellectual property on the grounds that the Florida state court and the federal court in Florida had lacked jurisdiction under the FSIA. Jerez appealed.

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Cuba and International Judicial Assistance

On Wednesday, President Obama announced that the United States and Cuba will normalize their relations. This announcement, the long-overdue release of American Alan Gross on humanitarian grounds, and the honorable exchange of three of the so-called “Cuban Five” for a US intelligence agent, show that despite the predictable fury from American hardliners on Cuba such as Senator Rubio and Senator Menendez, things can change for the better and we don’t need to keep repeating the mistakes our grandparents made forever. What a great message for this time of the year!

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