Thursday, December 25, 2008

This Is Your Life. Quest For Justice.

A Virginia federal judge pens his autobiography.

When judges write their autobiographies, it is normally long after they have left the bench, when the hot cases of their careers have cooled and the audience is confined mainly to legal scholars.

But Henry E. Hudson is no normal judge.

Hudson, an Arlington County native and former Fairfax County Circuit Court judge, now a federal judge in Richmond, has published his autobiography, "Quest for Justice," while his judicial career probably has many miles to go. He wrote it shortly before he was assigned to the dogfighting case of National Football League quarterback Michael Vick, which brought him a new round in the media spotlight. So that will be a chapter in his next book.

"Quest for Justice" is a candid, frequently witty and self-deprecating look at a career that has stopped at virtually every rung on the justice ladder, including stints as a barely trained jail guard in Arlington, U.S. attorney in Alexandria and head of the U.S. Marshals Service.

He had roles in such high-profile cases as the deadly 1992 siege by federal marshals and the FBI at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and the 1980s drug investigation of then-Sen. Charles S. Robb and pornography investigation by the Meese Commission.

He admits to missteps - "During my early years as a prosecutor I was narrow-minded and at times offensively self-righteous," he writes - and misdeeds - "I lied to the General Assembly and the Fairfax County Bar Association when I told them unequivocally that I had no intention of seeking a federal judgeship," the former Fairfax judge writes. "Perhaps lied is too strong a term."

But he stands by some of his most controversial decisions, including the prosecution of a mentally retarded man in Arlington for the rape and murder of a woman in 1984. The man, David Vasquez, served five years in prison before DNA and circumstantial evidence exonerated him.

"I certainly wish him the best, and regret what happened," Hudson writes. "However I offer no apologies." Hudson says that eyewitnesses placed Vasquez near the victim's home and that Vasquez made incriminating statements. "My duty at that point was to present the case to twelve jurors," Hudson writes. Vasquez agreed to an Alford plea, which allows defendants to maintain their innocence while recognizing that evidence would probably result in a guilty verdict.

But the book has far more ups than downs and shows how hard work and hard-earned political connections - he downplays his charm, gregariousness and made-for-TV speaking voice - helped him rise to the top of federal law enforcement.

"I have been blessed with so many exciting experiences," Hudson said in a recent interview. "I not only wanted to share those, but I wanted to inspire other young lawyers to a path of public service."

William B. Cummings, who preceded Hudson as U.S. attorney in Alexandria, said: "It's just a remarkable story. It's kind of folksy at times. But it's something the average person could read and understand how he made it to where he is today, a well-respected judge, first in Fairfax and now on the federal bench."

Hudson said he first tried writing a novel but couldn't get it published. Then he spent about a year "hacking away on a word processor," reviewing his career, he said, with the help of boxes of newspaper clippings he'd kept since his days as an assistant prosecutor in Arlington.

But when he showed his first draft to his wife and friends, starting with his days as a volunteer firefighter, they hated it, Hudson said. So the book now opens with the Vasquez case and his tour of the grisly murder scene of Carolyn Jean Hamm. Then he jumps back to his early days as a jail guard in Arlington and proceeds through his career.

"Folksy" is a good way to describe the judge's writing style, which combines earthy humor with a top-to-bottom grasp of the legal system.

Hudson got a job as a clerk in the Arlington courthouse and began attending night law school. Upon passing the bar, he became an assistant commonwealth's attorney, working his way up from traffic court to gradually handling larger cases, including drug conspiracies and murders.

Hudson's boss was William S. Burroughs, the colorful and controversial Arlington commonwealth's attorney. Police began to mistrust Burroughs and contact his young assistant. Burroughs "repeatedly warned me to tell the police to contact him," Hudson writes. "I disregarded his directions and occasionally stoked the discontent. Call me disloyal if you must, but I enjoyed calling the shots."

He moved over to the U.S. attorney's office as an assistant prosecutor, then decided to run against Burroughs for commonwealth's attorney. Hudson writes that he possibly violated federal law by campaigning on the job.

Hudson won big, and as one of the few successful Republicans in heavily Democratic Arlington, he began making friends in the Republican Party, such as Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.), whose early campaigns Hudson worked for.

Friends helped him land appointments, including to the Meese Commission on pornography, which he headed, attracting national attention as the commission held hearings and published a controversial report.

"The jobs I've had have been with a little help from my friends," Hudson said. "And that's the way it is in politics. I went out of my way to go over to Capitol Hill, meet with Congress. It really paid dividends. They treated me extremely well."

He landed the U.S. attorney job in Alexandria, overseeing such high-profile cases as the John Anthony Walker Jr. spy ring trials and the fraud prosecution of Lyndon LaRouche, and becoming involved in the debate over the heavy penalties imposed on crack cocaine dealers in the war on drugs.

Hudson supports the tough sentencing, even as critics note that crack cocaine crimes are penalized 10 times more harshly than those involving powder cocaine and that crack cases are more prevalent among African American defendants.

"The drugs are not the same," Hudson writes. "One is highly addictive and the other is not. It gives me pain that many of my distinguished judicial colleagues and other purported legal scholars don't grasp the devastation caused by crack cocaine."

But when federal authorities began investigating Robb for possible cocaine use, it turned into a "political powder keg" that ended Hudson's term as U.S. attorney, he writes. Hudson says that Robb thought leaks to the press were coming from Hudson or his people, and the senator blocked his reappointment in 1991.

And when Hudson sought the job as U.S. marshal, "Robb's appetite for revenge was not satisfied." Hudson writes that Robb blocked Hudson's confirmation hearing, but didn't do so publicly to avoid "the embarrassment of exposing his petty and boorish vindictiveness to his dwindling constituency."

Hudson eventually got the hearing, and the job. He became involved with TV shows such as "America's Most Wanted" and the drama "The Marshal."

More big cases, such as the shootout at Ruby Ridge, occupied his time. But when a Democrat took over the White House in 1993, he was out of a job again.

Hudson parlayed his contacts in the media into regular talk show appearances as a legal expert on the Fox News Channel, CNN, MSNBC, CBS and Court TV. He returned to private practice for several years before landing a spot on the Fairfax bench in 1998.

Hudson said his line in the book about lying about his intentions to the Fairfax bar was a joke, and he knew that as long as Robb was in the Senate, he had no chance of a federal judgeship. But Robb was defeated in 2000, and a new spot on the Virginia federal bench was created in 2001. Hudson was nominated and confirmed in 2002.

Hudson does not discuss any cases he handled during his four years in Fairfax, although he does pass along the advice that then-Circuit Court Chief Judge F. Bruce Bach gave him his first day on the job. "Success on the bench requires only two things," Bach told the rookie judge. "Gray hair to make you look distinguished, and hemorrhoids to make you look serious."
"Quest for Justice" was published by Loft Press of Fort Valley, Va., and is available at .

© 2008 The Associated Press.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Court OKs use of FACEBOOK to Serve Lien.

Court OKs use of Facebook Social Networking web site for serving legal documents.

The repo man wants to "poke" you on Facebook. The bill collector is writing on your wall. What are you doing right now?

After a court in Australia ruled a mortgage lender can use Facebook to break the news to a couple that they have lost their home, the global social networking Web sites are threatened with turning a little more anti-social.

Some people are concerned that such court-approved contact with their social networks such as Facebook and MySpace could amount to a violation of privacy.

"I don't think people sign up to Facebook thinking it's going to be another avenue by which a government agency or indeed a debt collector can contact them," said Colin Jacobs, vice chairman of the technology advocacy group Electronic Frontiers Australia.

"If we expect that we'll only be contacted on an official basis through the phone or post or through a visitor, and now it's coming through a more personal social networking conduit, then I don't think many people will be happy with that," he added.

Facebook has become a wildly popular online hangout, attracting more than 140 million users worldwide since it began in 2004. Users can "poke" their friends - an electronic tap on the shoulder. They also can affix messages or attachments on a friend's "wall" - an area on the Facebook page.

U.S. users don't have to worry about being served through the program yet. Legal rules list several acceptable delivery methods, but not surprisingly, Facebook isn't included, said Rory Ryan, a Baylor Law School associate professor who maintains a blog on such issues.

"There are some options for electronic service or judge-authorized alternatives, but I think it's safe to say that social-networking service will be rare for quite some time," Ryan said.

Lawyers say they cannot recall a precedent for the Dec. 12 ruling in Canberra's local Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court that allowed lender MKM Capital to use Facebook to serve legal documents after weeks of failed attempts to contact borrowers Gordon Poyser and Carmel Corbo at their Canberra home and by e-mail.

Facebook spokesman Barry Schnitt praised the ruling.

"We're pleased to see the Australian court validate Facebook as a reliable, secure and private medium for communication," he said.

"The ruling is also an interesting indication of the increasing role that Facebook is playing in people's lives," Schnitt added. The company said it believed this was the first time it has been used to serve a foreclosure notice.

Australian courts have given permission for people to be served via e-mail and text messages when it was not possible to serve them in person.

The lender's lawyer, Mark McCormack, said that by the time he got the documents approved by the court for transmission, Facebook profiles for the couple had disappeared. The page was apparently either closed or secured for privacy, following publicity about the court order.

"It's somewhat novel, however. We do see it as a valid method of bringing the matter to the attention of the defendant," McCormack said.

Despite the court approving the Internet contact on the basis of the lawyers' exhausted attempts to reach the couple, The Associated Press found Poyser, 62, on Tuesday at home at the contested address.

He declined to comment on the case, citing the couple's stress of losing their home of seven years. But he said he had privacy restrictions imposed on his Facebook page only because of the media attention.

"Because (otherwise) I'd get every man and his dog having a look," the retiree told the AP at his front door.

Despite the setback, McCormack said the Facebook attempt would help his client's case that all reasonable steps had been taken to serve the couple. A court is expected to settle the matter as early as next week.

Sydney University of Technology law professor Michael Fraser said the court intrusion into a social Web site was inevitable and unprecedented.

"It does change the rules of the game because people thought of these as social sites; now they can be used to serve official court documents and it may change the way people establish a presence on the social networks and the way they use them," Fraser said.

The case shows "that Facebook is not a toy," said Josh Bernoff, author of "Groundswell," a best-seller on social media. "You have to look at this and recognize ... it's a communications channel used for everything."

Amanda Lenhart, a senior research specialist at the Pew Internet Project, said the Australian case went beyond the generally accepted bounds of Facebook use. "There's a question of whether the users of Facebook envision it being used in this way."

She said a social network site is a well-accepted means of communication typically used by a network or circle of friends, not for commercial transactions.

Facebook itself has introduced touches that have made the site more than just the online equivalent of hanging out in a room with a group of buddies.

In 2006, the company angered many users by adding "news feeds" that automatically broadcast certain personal details. After Facebook began offering ways for users to control the feeds, the feature became far more popular. Last year, though, Facebook endured another revolt over "Beacon," which shared details about what its users were doing on other Web sites. Facebook responded to that outcry by introducing controls that let users change Beacon.

(Associated Press)
Facebook To Critics: Get Out Of Our Face
Feb. 17, 2009 Whose life is it anyway, yours or Facebook's? That's the question users are asking after critics charged that personal information is not only kept by the social networking site, but that it basically owns any information that is posted, can do whatever it wants with it and doesn't need your OK.
The brouhaha started when the popular site quietly changed its terms of service (TOS) Feb. 4.

Under the license section of the TOS, Facebook said that by agreeing to the terms, users "grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual, nonexclusive, transferable, worldwide license to use, copy, publish, stream, store, retain and distribute any user content you post."

That means that your unsavory escapades—in writing or photos—potentially could be used to sell the service and, moreover, Facebook doesn't need to tell you or get your permission.

According to the license, Facebook can "use your name, likeness and image for any purpose, including commercial or advertising. Facebook will be entitled to the unrestricted use of any such submission for any purpose, commercial or otherwise, without acknowledgment or compensation to you."

Adding insult to injury, the site did not notify users of TOS changes and, in fact, said it doesn't have to.

"We reserve the right, at our sole discretion, to change or delete portions of these terms at any time without further notice. Your continued use of the Facebook service after any such changes constitutes your acceptance of the new terms."

All of which leads to the obvious question: If users aren't alerted to TOS changes, how would they know what they're agreeing to? Check the TOS every time they use the site?

Most Facebook users only found out about the TOS revisions after a Consumers Union blog, The Consumerist, posted an outraged commentary on Sunday. The remarks were subsequently picked up by the media.

The resulting ire prompted Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to go on the defensive the following day. However, while his message said we "wouldn't share your information in a way you wouldn't want," he didn't say that the TOS would be changed. "Our philosophy is that people own their information and control who they share it with," wrote Zuckerberg. "When a person shares information on Facebook, they first need to grant Facebook a license to use that information so that we can show it to the other people without this license we couldn't help people share that information."

Zuckerberg also acknowledged that ownership of content on social networking sites is a very murky area and seemed to say, in essence: Don't follow us, we're lost, too.

"We're at an interesting point in the development of the open online world where these issues are being worked out," he wrote. "It's difficult terrain to navigate and we're going to make some missteps."

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Who Abandoned The Moral High Ground?

Regaining The Moral High Ground For United States.

Charity, that is to say, LOVE, begins at home and spreads abroad. Mr. Sulmasy would do well to start at home before he tries to export his recipe for regaining the moral high ground. If a man cannot be trusted to manage his own home, how can he be trusted to manage someone elses? If an organization does not live up to its own ideals, how can it tell someone else how to live up to theirs?
Would you take real estate advice from a homeless man? Would you take financial advice from a man on skid row? The Coast Guard Academy legal factory is morally bankrupt.

And I will tell you something else. Barack Obama knows Webster Smith. His lawyers are personnally acquainted with the President-elect. So, you can very well assume that President-elect Obama is well aware of what happened to the first cadet in Coast Guard history to be court-martialed. Moreover, it is highly probable that someone on his staff has read the analysis in this blog.

The Coast Guard Academy has an albatross around its neck. The Coast Guard Academy and its legal staff abandoned the moral high ground when it railroaded Cadet Webster Smith. The errors and the shortcomings of the Webster Smith court-martial have been highlighted and chronicled in this blog from the beginning. Some were even forecasted before they occurred. Yet, the Coast Guard Academy went right on ahead and commited moral seppuku. I said it then and I say it now. Until the Coast Guard atones for the sins she has committed against Webster Smith, the moral albatross will not leave its neck. It is a curse. The shedding of innocent blood can never be justified, and its stain can never be washed away.

To take the moral high ground on the Webster Smith case gives me no feelings of moral superiority. I simply refuse to sit idly by and let a few racist opportunists in the Coast Guard think that this repugnant act will not carry permanent negative consequences for the reputation of the Coast Guard.

When the news broke of a Black cadet being court-martialed, I was not afraid to follow where logic and common sense and and an impartial examination of the available facts would lead. Some of the major perpetrators have gone back into the woodwork; Admiral Van Sice accepted forced retirement in lieu of court-martial; Doug Wisniewski is sitting in San Francisco; and, Chief Judge Lane I. McClelland and the Coast Guard Appeals Court refused to avail themself and the Coast Guard of the last clear chance to remedy this injustice. However, this plantation policy of court-martialing a Black cadet because he thought he could get away with the same acts as the white cadets, is an insult to every officer of color in the corps. It will never be forgotten.

No one associated with the Coast Guard or the Coast Guard Academy should have he audacity to give advice to the President of the United States or to the President-elect until he has gone on record and stated his position with respect to the General Court-martial of Webster Smith. Mr Sulmasy should first publish his analysis of the trial and conviction of Webster Smith, then he will begin to have credibility in the area where he has asserted expertise.

All Coast Guard lawyers have blood on their hands. The blood of former cadet Webster Smith cries out for justice. Day in and day out his cries have not been heeded.

Moreover, if you knew as much about the interrogation techniques at Gitmo as I do, I think it would take some of the wind out of your sails. Some of those people are living better than they ever have before in their entire lives. Additionally, they are treated better than a sizeable portion of the United States population when it comes to medical treatment, dental treatment, nutritional health, reading material, freedom to worship, leisure time to excercise and recreate. They can do almost anything they want to do except leave the base, or perhaps, kill more Americans.

I was priviledged earlier this year to hear Lt.Col. (ret.) "GC", a high level consultant on International Terrorism, talk at the Los Angeles Adventurers Club. He took us into the daily life of our soldiers in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Besides talking about what our soldiers did as part of their daily routine and duty, he gave us the background, geography, climatology, and economy of the area. By the end of the Question and Answer Session we had a much keener understanding and appreciation of what life is like for our young soldiers there. Much has been said politically about "Gitmo", much of it wildly inaccurate. "GC" has toured Gitmo five times and so he has great first hand experience. We were honored and proud to have a man of his caliber clearup so many rumors and misinformation that is rampant in the news media today about Gitmo.

Webster Smith was held on sketchy evidence, gathered through an intelligence service, which often would not pass the evidence standards in federal criminal courts. He was held in isolated confinement, forced to work at hard labor for months before a charge sheet was drafted alleging any charges against him. He deserves fairness, speedy justice and closure.The Associated Press characterized the trial as follows: “What began as a trial against an accused sexual predator ended looking more like a series of murky encounters between college students, with consent often clouded by alcohol. But the case also offered a rare and often unflattering glimpse at cadet life.” (Moment of change' following Coast Guard Academy court-martial By MATT APUZZO Associated Press Writer, July 3, 2006)

The court-martial of Webster Smith was a defining moment in the history of the Coast Guard. It was one of those events that changed the Coast Guard forever, its history and the nature of the cadet corps. Nothing will ever be the same again. It was like the USA was on 12 September 2001, the day after 9/11. No amount of rationalizing or trying to put it into perspective can alter the tragic effects.

The racially motivated court-martial of Cadet Webster Smith will not be swept into the dustbin of history.

Monday, December 15, 2008
A Coast Guard Academy Professor's ideas for a Gitmo (Guantanamo Bay, Cuba) solution should be taken under consideration by President-elect Barack Hussein Obama.

Published by The Day newspaper's editorial staff on 12/14/2008.

Soon after he takes office next month, President-elect Barack Obama should start the process of closing the prison camp for suspected terrorists at the Guantanamo Bay military base in Cuba, issue an executive order outlawing the use of torture in the gathering of evidence and explore a new judicial approach to deal with the detainees.

Perhaps to Americans concerned about jobs, paying bills and shrinking retirement funds, how to deal with a group of foreign prisoners may not appear terribly important, but it is. Dealing with this complex and difficult situation is a matter of national security.

One of the key elements in reducing anti-American vehemence around the world is to maintain the moral high ground. By failing to be true to its ideals, the United States (Coast Guard Academy) has ceded that position. Holding captives for years without charge or trial, torturing some, locking them in secret prisons and not allowing prisoners to see the evidence against them are all morally wrong and violate this nation's fundamental tenet of rule of law.

With the election of Mr. Obama, the world is looking for a change, a signal that America will once again be true to its ideals. Such a change in direction would undermine the efforts of those who now ferment hatred by pointing to the gap between U.S. human rights rhetoric and its deeds.

Will solving the dilemma of what to do with these post-9/11 prisoners immediately generate good will among the Islamic fanatics that seek to destroy the United States? Of course not. But it will make it tougher for the zealots to find new recruits and to generate the support of the masses.

Solutions will not come easy. There are an estimated 250 prisoners now held at Guantanamo Bay. Many are held on sketchy evidence, gathered through intelligence services, which often would not pass the evidence standards in federal criminal courts.

In a commentary that appears on the front of today's Perspective section, Glenn Sulmasy, a member of the law faculty of the U.S. Coast Academy in New London, again presents his argument for a “national security court.” Mr. Sulmasy makes a strong case that a special judicial process is needed for a special prisoner. The modern global terrorist is not a traditional prisoner of war, because he fights for an ideology, not a country, and his conduct is not bound by the rules of war. Yet terrorists are not common criminals, but warriors, who operate on a global stage through surreptitious channels.

The hybrid court envisioned by Mr. Sulmasy would wisely move the handling of these special cases from the Department of Defense to the Department of Justice. Created by Congress, these national security courts would operate using rules of evidence designed for the special cases they handle and sensitive to the need to protect national security information. But if designed correctly, they would also guarantee fairness, speedy justice and assure closure for the prisoners.

Once in office, President-elect Obama should appoint a special commission to consider this new legal path for the Guantanamo prisoners, recommend alternatives for their imprisonment when Guantanamo closes and what to do with them if any are acquitted or released for lack of evidence.

One appointee we'd recommend is Mr. Sulmasy, who has studied the issue for several years and become a leader in academic circles in the debate on how to handle this thorny problem.

{© 2006 The United States Coast Guard Academy Alumni Association
47 Mohegan Avenue, New London, CT 06320-8111
Phone: 860.442.2683 | Email:}

(3/23/2009) Harold Hongju Koh, a national security law expert who is a well-known critic of the Bush administration's detention policies concerning suspected terrorists has been tapped by President Barack Obama to provide legal advice to the U.S. Department of State.

Harold Hongju Koh, who currently is dean of Yale Law School, will be nominated by the Obama administration as State Department legal advisor, reports the Caucus blog of the New York Times.

Koh has previously been mentioned as a possible nominee for any vacancy that may soon arise on the U.S. Supreme Court.

He apparently hasn't pulled any punches concerning his views on the previous administration's legal advice concerning the issues he is now himself expected to weigh in on: In June 2004, for instance, he described the U.S. Department of Justice memoranda on torture as “embarrassing” and “abominable,” the newspaper notes.

Harold Hongju Koh is a Korean-American native of Boston, he holds a B.A. degree from Harvard College and B.A. and M.A. degrees from Oxford University, where he was a Marshall Scholar. He earned his J.D. from Harvard Law School, where he was Developments Editor of the Harvard Law Review, and served as a law clerk for Justice Harry A. Blackmun of the United States Supreme Court and Judge Malcolm Richard Wilkey of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.

M.A., Oxford, 1996
J.D., Harvard, 1980
B.A., Oxford, 1977 (Marshall Scholar)
A.B., Harvard, 1975

Sunday ,11 Jan 2009, marked the seventh anniversary of the first prisoners arriving at Guantanamo, which was set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, in order to house suspected terrorists without putting them under the auspices of the American judicial system.

President-elect Barack Obama reiterated his promise to close the facility, although he could not promise it would be done quickly. "It is more difficult than I think a lot of people realize - and we are going to get it done - but part of the challenge that you have is that you have a bunch of folks that have been detained, many of whom
may be very dangerous who have not been put on trial or have not gone through some adjudication," he said. "It is possible for us to keep the American people safe while still adhering to our core values and ideals, and that's what I intend to carry forward in my administration."

"I think it's going to take some time. And, you know, our legal teams are working in consultation with our national security apparatus, as we speak, to help design exactly what we need to do.

It is possible for us to keep the American people safe while still
adhering to our core values and ideals, and that's what I intend to
carry forward in my administration.

President-elect Barack Obama further said, "But I don't want to be ambiguous about
this. We are going to close Guantanamo and we are going to make sure
that the procedures we set up are ones that abide by our Constitution.
That is not only the right thing to do but it actually has to be part
of our broader national security strategy, because we will send a
message to the world that we are serious about our values."

Obama said that Cheney continues to defend what he calls "extraordinary measures or procedures" when it comes to interrogations.

"From my view, waterboarding is torture," Obama said. "I have said that under my administration we will not torture."

However, Obama did not promise that his Justice Department would pursue any Bush administration officials who participated in or approved torture.

"We're still evaluating how we're going to approach the whole issue of interrogations, detentions, and so forth," Obama said. "And obviously
we're going to be looking at past practices, and I don't believe that
anybody is above the law.

"On the other hand I also have a belief that we need to look forward
as opposed to looking backwards. And part of my job is to make sure
that, for example at the CIA, you've got extraordinarily talented
people who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don't want
them to suddenly feel like they've got to spend all their time looking
over their shoulders and lawyering [up]."

18 Feb 2009. WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A federal appeals court today overturned a ruling that 17 Chinese Muslims who have been held for years at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba must be freed in the United States.

The appeals court ruled that a federal judge did not have the authority to order the U.S. government to bring the members of the Uighur ethic group to the United States for their release. It said only the executive branch, and not the courts, could make such immigration decisions.

20 Feb 2009. WASHINGTON. The Pentagon says the Guantanamo Bay prison meets the standard for humane treatment laid out in the Geneva Conventions, according to a report for President Barack Obama, who has ordered the terrorist detention center closed within a year.

The report recommended some changes, including an increase in group recreation for some of the camp's more dangerous or less compliant prisoners, according to a government official familiar with the study. The report also suggested allowing those prisoners to gather in groups of three or more, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the report has not officially been released.

Some of the hard-core prisoners are not currently allowed to meet with other prisoners for prayer or socialization and are kept in their cells for 23 hours a day. Alleged Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed is among the prisoners who could be affected by the change. Prolonged social isolation has been known to harm mental health among prisoners.

The 85-page report by Adm. Patrick M. Walsh, the Navy's second in command, was written in response to Obama's Jan. 22 executive order to close the facility at the U.S. naval base in Cuba within a year.

Attorney General Eric Holder, meanwhile, named a top federal
prosecutor, Matthew Olsen, as executive director of Obama's Guantanamo Detainee Review Task Force, which will recommend where to send each detainee. Obama has ordered the task force to consider whether to transfer, release or prosecute the detainees, or figure out some other "lawful means for disposition" if none of those options is available.

As a presidential candidate, Obama criticized the detention center
that human rights groups and many in the international community
widely condemned for harsh treatment of prisoners during the Bush
administration. The military has defended its actions, saying
prisoners have been treated humanely since the center was set up after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

The report found the camp to be in compliance with the Geneva
Conventions Common Article 3
, the international rules that require the
humane treatment of prisoners taken in unconventional armed conflicts,
like the war on terrorism. The camp's controversial force-feeding of
prisoners on hunger strikes was also found to be compliant with the
Geneva guidelines, a second government official confirmed.

About 800 prisoners have been held there, many for years and nearly
all without criminal charges. There are now around 250, including 17
from China who the United States wants to set free but cannot return
to China for fear they will be tortured by the government.

Guantanamo was selected for legal reasons: As a military base, it is
sovereign U.S. territory but, according to Bush administration
lawyers, was outside the scope of the Constitution. That would allow
prisoners to be prosecuted for war crimes using evidence that would be
difficult to use in the U.S. civilian court system.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Sgt. Alberto Martinez was acquitted of murder on 4 December at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina in the 2005 bombing deaths of two superiors in Iraq, triggering loud outbursts and gasps from the slain officers' families.

A military jury found Staff Sgt. Alberto Martinez not guilty on two counts of premedidated murder in the deaths of Capt. Phillip Esposito of Suffern, N.Y., and 1st Lt. Louis Allen, of Milford, Pa. Both officers were killed when an anti-personnel mine detonated in a window of their room at a U.S. military base in Iraq in June 2005.

"He slaughtered our husbands and that's it?" yelled Allen's widow, Barbara Allen, moments after the verdict was read. Someone else shouted out that Martinez was a "murdering son of a bitch" before the judge quickly ordered the courtroom to be cleared.

The 14-member jury spent two days deliberating following a six-week trial at Fort Bragg, during which Martinez chose not to testify. The New York Army National Guard Soldier could have faced the death penalty if he had been convicted.

Martinez, 41, of Troy, N.Y., was the first Soldier from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to have been accused of killing a direct superior, a crime known as "fragging" during the Vietnam war. All three were members of the 42nd Infantry Division.

Witnesses had testified that Esposito and Martinez were at odds because the officer thought Martinez was lax in his operation of the unit's supply room.

Before reaching a verdict, military jurors spent several hours Thursday reviewing the recorded testimony of trial witnesses, including a sergeant who said she had delivered explosives to the supply room Martinez oversaw shortly before the bombing.

Prosecution witness Staff Sgt. Amy Harlan said she delivered ammunition and Claymore mines to Martinez's supply room about a month before the fatal bombing. Harlan said she neither received nor requested a receipt documenting who took the equipment, a usual military practice.

Sgt. 1st Class Ashvin Thimmaiah's testimony also was reviewed. He said Esposito asked him for a list of "potential candidates to take over the supply room" the day before he was killed.

Staff Sgt. David Wentzel, in testimony recorded in October, said Martinez "seemed unconcerned" moments after the fatal blast.

Wentzel said he assumed Martinez was shell-shocked because he didn't respond when he yelled for Martinez to take cover. Wentzel said he jumped up and pulled Martinez to the shelter of a building.

"I was expecting there was more to come," Wentzel testified. "He was standing in the middle of the road not trying to seek cover or anything. It was almost like he knew it was over."
© Copyright 2008 Associated Press.
(NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS CLEARLY POORLY WRITTEN OR BLATANTLY ONE-SIDED; so, a companion article from another source is printed here.)

Here's a better article on this case from this mornings Fayetteville Observer. It's apparent the prosecution case was all circumstanial, because the only presented ONE witness who's "testimony putting a claymore in Martinez’s possession." In addition there was almost a mistrial because a "prosecution witness twice violated the judge’s orders to avoid discussing inadmissible evidence."

"Jury acquits Martinez of murder charges"
By Paul Woolverton and Corey G. Johnson
Staff writers

A woman’s shriek of outrage ripped through a Fort Bragg courtroom Thursday evening when a military jury announced it had acquitted Army Staff Sgt. Alberto B. Martinez of murdering two of his superior officers at a military base in Iraq.

Martinez, 41, was accused of using a mine to kill 30-year-old Capt. Phillip Esposito of Suffern, N.Y., and 34-year-old 1st Lt. Louis Allen of Milford, Pa., in June 2005. The three served in a Troy, N.Y., based unit of the 42nd Infantry Division of the New York National Guard.

A guilty verdict could have led to a death sentence for the first sergeant.

Members of Allen and Esposito’s families, wailing in the courtroom, remained convinced he is guilty.

“This is the United States of America!” a disbelieving woman cried.

The judge, Col. Stephen Henley, excused the jury while the family members continued to cry. Esposito’s father, Thomas, tried to keep them calm. “Easy, easy, easy,” he said, trying to console his wife, Joan, and the other women around him. “Easy, easy, easy.”

Barbara Allen, Lt. Allen’s widow, lashed out from the front row of the spectator area. She and Esposito’s widow, Siobhan, have attended 3 years of courtroom proceedings at Fort Bragg and overseas.

“He slaughtered our husbands and that’s it!” she shouted as the 14 jurors walked out.

She turned toward Martinez and cursed him. “You murdered my husband!” she cried.

The Army also was convinced Martinez did it. “We wouldn’t have brought charges if we weren’t convinced that Staff Sgt. Martinez was guilty,” said Lt. Col. Kerry, Fort Bragg’s chief prosecutor.

A Fort Bragg spokeswoman said later that the Allen and Esposito families were declining interview requests.

Martinez and his family, who attended the trial, also declined an interview request. One of Martinez’s lawyers, Maj. Marc Cipriano, issued a prepared statement on their behalf late Thursday:

“We are pleased that the military justice system worked, and we are grateful for the representation and support of the defense team. Our sympathies go out to the families of the victims. This has been a very difficult process for everyone involved, and we are happy to be back together again as a family.”

Prosecutors tried to persuade the jury that more than a year of enmity between Esposito and Martinez ended with four explosions at the Water Palace at Forward Operating Base Danger in Tikrit, Iraq.

In nearly six weeks of testimony, they presented testimony describing major problems with how Martinez, the supply sergeant, ran the company’s supply section, while the defense team tried to counter them.

Witnesses said Esposito repeatedly tried to get Martinez to do paperwork to keep track of millions of dollars in equipment, but Martinez resisted or ignored his direction. They said Martinez often complained about Esposito and cursed him. Some reported threatening comments.

In May 2005, according to testimony and evidence, Esposito had enough of the problems. He banned Martinez from access to the supply areas and began taking steps to boot him from his company.

The prosecutors said Martinez feared this would cost him his full-time job with the National Guard.

Staff Sgt. Amy Harlan, a supply sergeant from another company, said that she gave Martinez grenades, claymore mines and other ammunition when her Army Reserve unit was preparing to return to the United States.

She said Martinez told her the ammunition would “be put to good use.” It was the only testimony putting a claymore in Martinez’s possession.

About 10 p.m. June 7, 2005, a claymore exploded in the window of Esposito’s office. The blast hurled 700 ball bearings at Esposito and Allen, who were playing a board game at a table just inside the glass.

Moments later, three grenades were detonated just outside the building.

Soldiers in the area at first assumed it was an enemy mortar attack. The prosecutors said Martinez set off the grenades to foster that illusion and cover up the murders.

Martinez, who lived and worked in the Water Palace, was on the street outside right after the explosions.

The defense team showed that no one saw Martinez with the claymore or its detonator switch and wire that night, and no inventory records showed that the claymore used in the murders was among those he got from Harlan. Harlan and Martinez kept poor records, and the serial number on the claymore’s detonator switch could not be traced to Martinez.

Further, other soldiers had access to claymores, and other soldiers had problems with Esposito.

Throughout the court-martial, the defense lawyers argued that investigators fixated on Martinez from the beginning and ignored other potential suspects.

Martinez did not testify.

Emotional flare-ups and exchanges marked the court-martial from the outset.

A mistrial was barely averted after a prosecution witness twice violated the judge’s orders to avoid discussing inadmissible evidence. A prosecutor was warned for laughing and making an inappropriate comment while the jury was in the courtroom. Defense questioning of witnesses brought repeated admonishments from the judge. Tense relations and poor communication between the legal teams delayed witnesses appearances and stalled court proceedings at least three times.

With the acquittal, Martinez is being released from custody. Charges of disobeying orders and giving military property to an Iraqi were dismissed earlier this year. He had been jailed since June 2005.

Although he is no longer in the National Guard, Martinez is still in the Army and assigned to Fort Bragg. A Fort Bragg spokesman said Martinez has served the term of his enlistment, so he can leave the service if he wants.

Staff writer Paul Woolverton can be reached at or 486-3512.
Staff writer Corey G. Johnson can be reached at or 323-4848, ext. 487. "

Friday, December 5, 2008

Webster Smith Deserves same Appeal Rights as Enemy Combatants.

WASHINGTON — In the early 1990s, Norbert B. MacLean III, then a young Navy cryptologist, was court-martialed for writing bad checks, even though he says the evidence against him was far from overwhelming.

Mr. MacLean says he believes that decisions on his case were influenced by the fact that he had charged a superior with harassment. His faith in the military justice system lost, he says, he pleaded guilty and accepted a dishonorable discharge before discovering he could not appeal to the Supreme Court.

“I felt horrified,” said Mr. MacLean, a dual citizen of the United States and Australia. “Because I had chosen to wear a military uniform, I was being treated like a second-class citizen.”

If Congress returns to Washington in early December, it may consider legislation that would give service members the right to petition the Supreme Court.

Supporters say increasing access to the Supreme Court for court-martialed service members could be a first step in updating the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which went into effect in 1951 and has not been changed by Congress in major ways in the last 25 years.

“When the Uniform Code of Military Justice was established, it was cutting edge,” said Mr. MacLean, who has temporarily moved from Australia to the San Diego area to lobby Congress. “A lot has changed.”

Robert E. Reed, an associate deputy general counsel at the Pentagon, said the legislation would increase the burdens on the Supreme Court and Defense Department lawyers, adding that supporters were not taking a “panoramic view.” A White House spokesman, Carlton Carroll, said “our current line of thinking is close to” the Pentagon’s.

Under current law, some cases in the military justice system can automatically be appealed to the Supreme Court, including those in which a service member receives the death penalty and others that have been reviewed by the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, the civilian court that oversees the military justice system. But if the appeals court declines to hear a case, which happens on average more than 80 percent of the time, the service member cannot petition the Supreme Court.

Meanwhile, Congress has granted even captured enemy combatants greater access to the Supreme Court.

In September, the House approved a bill that would allow court-martialed service members to petition the Supreme Court, even if the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces would not hear their case. A bill with the same language has been introduced in the Senate, but it is unclear whether action will be taken before the new Congress is sworn in next year.

The American Bar Association and the Military Officers Association of America have said they support the legislation.
“The right to at least file with the Supreme Court should be fundamental,” said H. Thomas Wells Jr., president of the American Bar Association. “The government can, and the service member can’t. That doesn’t seem to be a fair application.”

But Mr. Reed estimated that the Supreme Court and lawyers at the Pentagon could face hundreds of new petitions a year if Congress passed the measure.

“A lot of those supporters are only looking at this as a motherhood, apple pie sort of issue,” he said. “There’s a logic and a rationale to this. We’re not just trying to be mean and difficult for the defendants.”

The Congressional Budget Office estimated last month that the increased workload for the Pentagon and the Supreme Court would cost around $1 million a year.

Supporters of the bill say that the estimate is wildly inflated and that the number of petitions prompted by the legislation could be just one or two dozen.

“It’s baloney — and I would’ve used a different word if I could,” said Stephen A. Saltzburg, a law professor at George Washington University and general counsel for the National Institute of Military Justice. “The increased workload would be virtually nothing.”

It is hard to say what sort of cases might advance to the Supreme Court if the legislation passes. Supporters say the law’s greatest contributions may be symbolic.

“It’s a symbol that a service member has the exact same rights as anyone else,” said Walter T. Cox III, who served as chief judge of the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and later headed a commission that proposed changes in the military justice system. “That seems worth opening the door.”

Mr. Cox and other supporters hope Congress will consider other modifications to the system, like changing the appeals process and examining whether lawyers in the system are adequately trained. He hopes to convene a second commission that would look at some of those issues in the next few months.

For his part, Mr. Reed said many of the criticisms of the military justice system themselves were dated.

“It’s the same old people with the same old arguments and the same propositions,” he said. “If they do have some new ideas that they think could be beneficial, I hope they forward them to the department.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces

450 E Street, Northwest

Washington, D.C. 20442-0001


United States v. Webster M. Smith, No. 08-0719/CG

(Appellee) (Appellant)

Counsel for Appellant: Ronald C. Machen, Esq.

Counsel for Appellee: LT Emily P. Reuter, USCG

Case Summary: GCM conviction of going from place of duty, attempting to disobey an order, sodomy, extortion, and indecent assault. Granted issue questions whether the military judge violated Appellant’s constitutional right to confront his accusers by limiting his cross-examination of [SR], the government’s only witness, on three of the five charges.

NOTE: Counsel for each side will be allotted 20 minutes to present oral argument in this case.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Guilty Verdict In MySpace Suicide case.

Verdict in MySpace Suicide Case

(Nov 26, 2008)
LOS ANGELES — A federal jury here convicted a Missouri woman of three misdemeanor charges of computer fraud for her involvement in creating a phony account on MySpace to trick a teenager, who later committed suicide.

The defendant, Lori Drew, 49, faces up to three years in prison and $300,000 in fines, according to federal sentencing guidelines.

The jury rejected felony charges against Ms. Drew, and was deadlocked on a conspiracy count. Judge George Wu declared a mistrial on that charge.

Ms. Drew, who showed little emotion during the trial, sat stone-faced as the clerk read the jury’s findings. Tina Meier, the mother of the girl who committed suicide, shook her head slowly until the misdemeanor findings were read. None of the jurors would comment as they left the courtroom, nor would Ms. Drew, whose face was red and twisted with rage as she departed.

Her lawyer requested a new trial on the three misdemeanor counts, and the judge scheduled a hearing on that matter for late December.

The trial was an unusual use of computer fraud statutes prohibiting accessing a computer without authorization through interstate commerce to obtain information to inflict emotional distress. Local prosecutors in Missouri declined to bring charges. But Thomas O’Brien, the United States attorney here, asserted jurisdiction on the theory that MySpace is based in Los Angeles, where its servers are housed.

Mr. O’Brien, who tried the case himself with the firepower of two subordinates, said he was pleased with the verdict. "The overwhelming message,” he said, “is if you are going to attempt to annoy or go after a little girl and you’re going to use the Internet to do so, this office and others across the country will hold you responsible.”

Ms. Meier said that she hoped Ms. Drew would serve jail time, and that even without the felony convictions, she felt satisfied. "This day is not any harder then the day when I found Megan," she said. "This has never been about vengeance. This is about justice. For me it’s absolutely worth it every single day sitting in that court hoping there was justice."

During the five-day trial, prosecutors portrayed Ms. Drew as working in concert with her then 13-year-old daughter, Sarah, and Ashley Grills, a family friend and employee of Ms. Drew’s magazine coupon business, to create a good-looking teenage boy, “Josh Evans,” as an Internet identity to communicate online with Ms. Meier’s daughter Megan.

The purpose of the hoax, several witnesses testified, was to use Megan’s e-mail exchanges with "Josh" to humiliate Megan in retribution for her unkind acts toward Sarah. But the jury appeared to reject the idea that there was malicious intent behind the e-mail messages, which is required for a felony conviction. Instead, it seemed to accept the theory presented in defense testimony that the account was created simply to get information about Megan.

While it was clearly established during the trial that Ms. Grills, not Ms. Drew, set up the MySpace account, prosecutors contended that because the computer was in Ms. Drew’s home and because she frequently participated in sending e-mail messages to Megan, she violated both the user agreement of MySpace and committed felonious computer fraud, made all the more egregious because she knew that Megan had struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts since the third grade.

After weeks of online courtship with "Josh,” Megan was distressed one afternoon in October 2006, according to testimony at the trial, when she received an e-mail message from him that said, "the world would be a better place without you." Ms. Grills, who is now 20, testified under an immunity agreement that shortly after that message was sent, Megan wrote back, ”You’re the kind of boy a girl would kill herself over.” Megan hanged herself that same afternoon.

The last e-mail message from Megan was revealed for the first time in the trial. Ms. Drew’s lawyer, H. Dean Steward, argued that his client had minimal knowledge of the account, and had never read the user agreement. He also argued that prosecutors were trying the case as a homicide rather than as a computer fraud case.

Each day of the short trial was punctuated with highly emotional testimony, including that of Ms. Meier, who tearfully recalled finding her daughter after she hanged herself, and of Sarah, who testified, although her mother did not, about events over the 28 days that the Myspace account for “Josh” was open.

Federal Court Allows Vatican to be Sued in USA For sexual Abuse by Catholic Priests.

A federal appeals court in Cincinatti, Ohio has permitted a lawsuit over alleged sexual abuse to proceed against the Vatican, creating potential liability for the seat of the Roman Catholic faith for the activities of Catholic clergy in the U.S.

Monday's ruling, issued by the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit in Cincinnati, marks the first time a court at so high a level has recognized that the Vatican could be liable for the negligence in sexual-abuse cases brought in the U.S.

The ruling is seen as a breakthrough by those allegedly abused by priests. Investigators and grand juries have found several instances where the church failed to report alleged abusers and covered up alleged misdeeds to protect them.

Getty Images.
Pope Benedict XVI, Sunday, at his studio at the Vatican, which could be liable for negligence after a U.S. appeals court let a sexual-abuse suit proceed.
Jeffrey S. Lena, the attorney for the Holy See, said he was not "presently inclined" to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision.

It remains to be seen whether the Vatican, which is a sovereign state recognized by the U.S. government, will make further arguments that it is immune from U.S. civil proceeding.

Catholic dioceses in the U.S. have paid out at least $1.5 billion to alleged abuse victims, most of this since the scandal broke open nationwide in 2002.

The appeals court found that the church government may be held liable for actions taken in the U.S. based on the Vatican's policies or directives.

"What the court has allowed us to do is proceed against the Vatican for the conduct of the U.S. bishops because of the bishops' failure to ... report child abuse," said William F. McMurry, the attorney for three men who claim they were abused as children by priests in the Louisville, Ky., archdiocese. He is seeking class-action status in the district-court case.

The ruling marks the first time that a federal appeals court recognized that the Vatican could be liable under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, a 1976 law that governs when a foreign nation or its agents can be sued, said Marci Hamilton, a constitutional-law scholar who is part of the legal team in the Louisville case.

"If someone can crack that barrier of immunity, it opens the door to other claims against the Catholic church," says Jonathan Levy, a Washington, D.C., attorney who represents concentration-camp survivors in a suit against numerous parties including the Vatican bank. The Vatican, in that case, prevailed in its claim of sovereign immunity.

Mr. Lena, the lawyer for the Holy See in the Louisville case, said Monday's ruling is a small step and one that is far from establishing whether Vatican policy contributed to thousands of incidents of abuse that have been alleged over several decades. "We're miles away from liability," he said. The ruling is "very incremental."

One of the central pieces of evidence in the case is a 1962 memo, issued by the Vatican and disclosed by reporters in 2003, which directs Catholic bishops to keep silent about claims of sex abuse. The document was approved by Pope John the 23rd.

Monday's ruling will allow the plaintiffs' case to proceed in U.S. District Court in Louisville. Among the legal questions yet to be decided in the case is whether U.S. bishops are employees of the Vatican, and whether they acted on the Holy See's orders.

(Decision follows)
Pursuant to Sixth Circuit Rule 206
File Name: 08a0417p.06
Nos. 07-5078/5163
Appeal from the United States District Court
for the Western District of Kentucky at Louisville.
No. 04-00338—John G. Heyburn II, Chief District Judge.
Argued: March 18, 2008
Decided and Filed: November 24, 2008
Before: MARTIN, GIBBONS, and GRIFFIN, Circuit Judges.
ARGUED: Jeffrey S. Lena, LAW OFFICES OF JEFFREY S. LENA, Berkeley, California, for
Appellant. William F. McMurry, McMURRY & ASSOCIATES, Prospect, Kentucky, for Appellees.
Lewis Yelin, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, D.C., for Intervenor.
ON BRIEF: Jeffrey S. Lena, LAW OFFICES OF JEFFREY S. LENA, Berkeley, California, John
D. Dyche, R. Gregg Hovious, FULTZ, MADDOX, HOVIOUS & DICKENS, Louisville, Kentucky,
for Appellant. William F. McMurry, Adrienne W. Kim, McMURRY & ASSOCIATES, Prospect,
Kentucky, Douglas H. Morris II, Lea A. Player, MORRIS & PLAYER, Prospect, Kentucky, for
Appellees. Lewis Yelin, Douglas N. Letter, UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE,
Washington, D.C., for Intervenor.
JULIA SMITH GIBBONS, Circuit Judge. Defendant Holy See appeals the district court’s
denial, in part, of its motion to dismiss all of plaintiffs’ claims due to lack of subject matter
jurisdiction. The Holy See contends that the district court has no subject matter jurisdiction over
plaintiffs’ claims because the Holy See is immune from suit as a foreign state pursuant to the
Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”), 28 U.S.C. § 1602 et seq. Plaintiffs James H. O’Bryan,
Donald E. Poppe, and Michael J. Turner (“plaintiffs”) cross-appeal the district court’s partial grant
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 2
of the Holy See’s motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs claim that the FSIA does not immunize the Holy See
from suit on the grounds alleged in their complaint and thus the district court does in fact have
subject matter jurisdiction in this case. The United States as intervenor and amicus supports the
position of the Holy See with respect to the Holy See’s status as a foreign state and the
constitutionality of the FSIA. For the following reasons, we affirm the decision of the district court.
On June 4, 2004, plaintiffs, who claim to have been victims of sexual abuse by Roman
Catholic clergy, filed a class action suit against the Holy See. The Holy See is both a foreign state
and an unincorporated association and the central government of an international religious
organization, the Roman Catholic Church. The United States has recognized the Holy See as a
foreign sovereign since 1984. According to their complaint, plaintiffs consist of representatives for
two separate classes. James H. O’Bryan and Donald E. Poppe serve as the representatives of Class
I, which “consists of all persons who have not previously brought claims against an agent or servant
of the Defendant, Holy See, in the United States . . . arising out of sexual abuse he or she suffered
at the hands of a Roman Catholic priest, cleric, bishop, archbishop, cardinal, agent or employee . .
. .” Michael J. Turner serves as the representative of Class II, which “consists of all persons who
have previously brought claims against an agent or servant of the Defendant, Holy See, in the United
States . . . arising out of sexual abuse he or she suffered at the hands of a Roman Catholic priest,
cleric, agent or employee . . . .” All three representatives were residents of Kentucky and citizens
of the United States at the time of the alleged sexual abuse by local Catholic priests.
As representatives, the plaintiffs allege the following underlying facts in support of their suit.
Plaintiff, James H. O’Bryan, was sexually abused, molested and assaulted by a
Roman Catholic priest in the 1920s, while Plaintiff was under the care, custody,
authority, control and influence of an abusive Roman Catholic priest, which authority
was granted to him by the Defendant, Holy See.
Plaintiff, Donald E. Poppe, was sexually abused, molested and assaulted by a Roman
Catholic priest in the 1960s, while Plaintiff was under the care, custody, authority,
control and influence of an abusive Roman Catholic priest, which authority was
granted to him by the Defendant, Holy See.
Plaintiff, Michael J. Turner, was sexually abused, molested and assaulted by a
Roman Catholic priest in the mid 1970s, while Plaintiff was under the care, custody,
authority, control and influence of an abusive Roman Catholic priest, which authority
was granted to him by the Defendant, Holy See.
In all cases, plaintiffs allege that the sexual molestation in question “occurred while the abusive
Roman Catholic priest, agent, servant or employee was acting within the scope of his employment,
as part of an agency relationship with the Defendant, Holy See, and the misconduct was committed
with the apparent authority arising from this employment and/or agency relationship.”
Plaintiffs’ claims regarding the liability of the Holy See stem, in large part, from their
allegations regarding the purported policy of the Holy See towards accusations of sexual abuse
leveled against clergy:
[T]he Holy See has mandated that all allegations of childhood sexual abuse be kept
under a cloak of complete secrecy, even if that secrecy violated state, federal, or
international law. In March, 1962, the Holy See privately circulated a document
containing a set of procedural norms for dealing with the solicitation of sex in
confession, clergy sex with minors, homosexual relations, and bestiality. This
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 3
1Plaintiffs also plead a separate cause of action titled “Respondeat Superior Liability.” However, respondeat
superior is not a cause of action. It is a basis for holding the Holy See responsible for the acts of its agents. Thus,
respondeat superior will factor in to our discussion of the other claims advanced by plaintiffs but will not be treated
document [the “1962 Policy”] – an official legislative text issued by the
Congregation of the Holy Office and specifically approved by Pope John XXIII –
imposes the highest level of secrecy on the handling of clergy sexual abuse matters.
. . . This secret document was first discovered and made public in July, 2003 by news
media in the United States and throughout the world. The policies of the Holy See
expressed in this and other documents require bishops in the United States to, among
other things, refuse to report childhood sexual abuse committed by priests to criminal
or civil authorities, even where such failure to report would itself be a criminal
(Plaintiff’s Complaint, Introduction.) On behalf of Class I, plaintiffs outline in their
complaint the following causes of action:1 violation of customary international law of human rights;
negligence; breach of fiduciary duty; and the tort of outrage/intentional infliction of emotional
distress. In addition, plaintiffs advance claims of deceit and misrepresentation against the Holy See
“in its capacity as an Unincorporated Association and Head of an International Religious
Organization Only.” Finally, plaintiffs, on behalf of Class I, request injunctive relief.
On behalf of Class II, plaintiffs outline in their complaint the following causes of action:
violation of customary international law of human rights; negligence; breach of fiduciary duty; and
the tort of outrage/intentional infliction of emotional distress. In addition, plaintiffs advance claims
of deceit and misrepresentation against the Holy See “in its capacity as an Unincorporated
Association and Head of an International Religious Organization Only.” Finally, plaintiffs, on
behalf of Class II, request injunctive relief.
Plaintiffs assert in their complaint that federal subject matter jurisdiction exists in this case
on a number of grounds. First, plaintiffs advance claims of federal jurisdiction under the FSIA, 28
U.S.C. § 1602 et seq. Assuming that the Holy See is a “foreign state” within the meaning of 28
U.S.C. § 1603, plaintiffs claim that federal jurisdiction attaches because (1) the Holy See has waived
its immunity pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(1); (2) the Holy See was acting in a commercial
capacity pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2); or (3) the money damages that are sought are for
personal injuries stemming from the Holy See’s tortious conduct pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(5).
Alternatively, assuming that the Holy See is not a “foreign state” within the meaning of 28
U.S.C. § 1603, plaintiffs assert that this court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 1331 and 1332 and supplemental jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
On April 4, 2005, the Holy See filed a motion to dismiss on the grounds that the plaintiffs’
complaint failed to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, lack of subject matter jurisdiction,
lack of personal jurisdiction, insufficient process and insufficient service of process. In its
memorandum and opinion of October 7, 2005, the district court addressed the Holy See’s claim that
the service of process had been insufficient. In doing so, the district court began its analysis by
determining that the Holy See was in fact a “foreign state” within the meaning of the FSIA. In turn,
the district court found that plaintiffs had not satisfied the service of process requirements under the
FSIA, 28 U.S.C. § 1608(a). However, the district court found that because the plaintiffs had made
good faith attempts to perfect service of process, it would grant them an additional 60 days in which
to perfect service. O’Bryan v. Holy See, 490 F. Supp 2d 826, 832 (W.D. Ky. 2005) (“O’Bryan I”).
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 4
On January 10, 2007, the district court determined that plaintiffs had perfected service of
process and therefore went on to consider the Holy See’s motion to dismiss on the grounds that there
was no subject matter jurisdiction in the instant case. In its memorandum and opinion, the district
court determined that while subject matter jurisdiction did not exist for a number of plaintiffs’
claims, a number of the plaintiffs’ claims fell within the exceptions to the immunities granted foreign
states under FSIA. In doing so, the district court concluded that plaintiffs had sufficiently pled that
the clergy in the United States were Holy See’s employees; in turn, because the Holy See had
declined to provide evidence to the contrary, the district would presume that the clergy in question
were in fact Holy See employees. However, the district court remained “open to reconsidering its
decision that the United States-based bishops, archbishops, and other clergy of the Roman Catholic
Church are employees of the Holy See for purposes of FSIA if further contrary evidence emerges
during the litigation.” The district court summarized its holdings as follows:
In summary, this Court will dismiss the Plaintiffs’ negligence claim that Defendant
Holy See failed to provide safe care of children entrusted to the clergy. The Court
also will dismiss Plaintiffs' deceit and misrepresentation claims. However, the Court
will deny Defendant's motion to dismiss as to the failure to report and failure to warn
negligence claims and as to all other claims asserted against the Holy See at this
time. Therefore, the following claims remain against the Holy See: negligent failure
to report, negligent failure to warn, breach of fiduciary duty (insofar as that breach
involved the failure to report and the failure to warn), outrage and emotional distress,
violations of the customary law of human rights, and claims under the doctrine of
respondeat superior.
The Holy See appealed the district court’s order denying, in part, its motion to dismiss and
plaintiffs subsequently cross-appealed. In their Final Second Brief, the plaintiffs argued, for the first
time, that the application of the FSIA to the Holy See violated the Establishment Clause. Because
the plaintiffs’ new contentions amounted to a challenge of the FSIA’s constitutionality, the United
States, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 2403(a), intervened as a matter of right to defend the constitutionality
of the FSIA. The United States also intervened as an amicus curiae supporting the position of the
Holy See regarding its status as a foreign sovereign. The United States took no position on the
applicability of the statutory exceptions to immunity with respect to plaintiffs’ claims.
Because “sovereign immunity is an immunity from trial, not just a defense to liability on the
merits, the denial of a claim of sovereign immunity is immediately appealable under the collateral
order doctrine as a final decision, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291.” Keller v. Cent. Bank of Nig., 277
F.3d 811, 815 (6th Cir. 2002). This court “review[s] de novo questions of subject matter
jurisdiction.” Bauer v. RBX Indus., 368 F.3d 569, 578 (6th Cir. 2004) (citing Caudill v. N. Am.
Media Corp., 200 F.3d 914, 916 (6th Cir. 2000)). However, “[a] district court’s decision to exercise
supplemental jurisdiction over state law claims that are related to the federal question claim is
reviewed only for abuse of discretion.” Harper v. AutoAlliance Int’l, Inc., 392 F.3d 195, 200 (6th
Cir. 2004).
As stated in 28 U.S.C. § 1604, “a foreign state shall be immune from the jurisdiction of the
courts of the United States and of the States except as provided in sections 1605-1607 of this
chapter.” However, the FSIA does not itself define the term “foreign state.” See, e.g., Ungar v.
Palestinian Liberation Org., 402 F.3d 274, 283 (1st Cir. 2005).
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 5
2See, e.g., Ams. United for Separation of Church & State v. Reagan, 786 F.2d 194, 197 (3d Cir. 1986) (noting
that diplomatic relations between the United States and the Vatican began in 1984).
3Plaintiffs argue that because the conduct in question preceded the United States’ recognition of the Holy See
as a foreign sovereign, this court should not apply FSIA. This argument also fails. First, as a general principle of
international law, “recognition is retroactive in effect and validates all the actions and conduct of the government so
recognized from the commencement of its existence.” Oetjen v. Cent. Leather Co., 246 U.S. 297, 303 (1918). More
importantly, “the principal purpose of foreign sovereign immunity has never been to permit foreign states and their
instrumentalities to shape their conduct in reliance on the promise of future immunity from suit in United States courts.
Rather, such immunity reflects current political realities and relationships, and aims to give foreign states and their
instrumentalities some present ‘protection from the inconvenience of suit as a gesture of comity.’” Republic of Austria
v. Altmann, 541 U.S. 677, 696 (2004) (emphasis in original) (holding that FSIA can be retroactive in application)
(quoting Dole Food Co. v. Patrickson, 538 U.S. 468, 479 (2003)). Thus, the purpose of FSIA is to grant immunity based
upon the current relationship between the United States and the relevant foreign sovereign. Because the United States
currently has diplomatic relations with the Holy See, foreign sovereign immunity applies even to prior conduct.
In determining whether a particular entity constitutes a “foreign state” courts typically adopt
one of two approaches. A number of courts have looked to the criteria enumerated in Restatement
(Third) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States § 201: “Under international law, a state
is an entity that has a defined territory and a permanent population, under the control of its own
government, and that engages in, or has the capacity to engage in, formal relations with other such
entities.” See Estate of Klieman v. Palestinian Auth., 424 F. Supp. 2d 153, 158-59 (D.D.C. 2006)
(collecting cases); see also Ungar, 402 F.3d at 283 (noting that FSIA’s legislative history makes it
clear that the “objective of the bill was to codify sovereign immunity doctrine as recognized by
international law and to ensure that this international standard would be applied in federal
litigation”); Morgan Guar. Trust Co. v. Republic of Palau, 924 F.2d 1237, 1243 (2d Cir. 1991)
(relying primarily on the Restatement standard for determining whether the appellee was a “foreign
state” under FSIA). However, as the First Circuit noted in Ungar, “the Restatement standard . . .
is not inevitably correct. It may be argued that a foreign state, for purposes of the FSIA, is an entity
that has been recognized as a sovereign by the United States government.” 402 F.3d at 284 n.6.
Regardless, as the court noted in Ungar, when both standards lead to the same conclusion, courts
need not choose as “all roads lead to Rome.” Id.
In this case, there is no dispute that the United States recognized the Vatican in 1984,2 and
there is no dispute between the parties that the State of the Vatican is a foreign state within the
meaning of FSIA. (Appellee’s Br. 21 (“The Holy See, as State of the Vatican, meets the[]
requirements [of the Restatement Standard]”)). See also Dale v. Colagiovanni, 337 F. Supp. 2d 825,
832 (S.D. Miss. 2004) (vacated on other grounds) (treating the Vatican as a foreign state for the
purposes of the FSIA); English v. Thorne, 676 F. Supp. 761, 764 (S.D. Miss. 1987) (same).3
Plaintiffs, however, contend that the “Holy See . . . . as the head of the Roman Catholic
Church, . . . has no defined territory and no permanent population, and thus does not” satisfy the
definition of “foreign state” under the Restatement’s standard. (Appellee’s Br. 21 (emphasis
Plaintiffs’ argument remains somewhat obscure. As noted, plaintiffs admit that the Holy See,
as State of the Vatican, is a foreign state within the meaning of FSIA. Thus, they do not dispute that
the entity recognized by the United States government as a foreign state is indeed a foreign
sovereign. Instead, plaintiffs appear to advance one of two arguments. The first possible
interpretation of plaintiffs’ argument is that they ask this court to conceive of the Holy See as two
separate entities – first, a foreign sovereign, recognized by the United States government, and
second, an unincorporated head of an international religious organization (Appellee’s Br. 21 (“The
Holy See, as State of the Vatican, meets the[] requirements [of the Restatement Standard],” but the
“Holy See . . . . as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, . . . has no defined territory and no
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 6
permanent population, and thus does not” satisfy the definition of “foreign state” under the
Restatement’s standard”)). Alternatively, they ask this court not to consider the Holy See, a single
entity, a foreign sovereign in this case because the Holy See was acting in a non-sovereign capacity
when it engaged in the conduct alleged in plaintiffs’ complaint. Compl. ¶ 22 (“At the same time,
and wholly distinct and separate from its role and activities as a sovereign, [the Holy See] is an
unincorporated association and head of the Roman Catholic Church, an international religious
Plaintiffs’ argument fails under either construction. With respect to the first alternative – the
two-entity alternative – the district court correctly noted that “[p]laintiffs cite no authority for the
proposition that the Holy See may be sued in a separate, non-sovereign function as an
unincorporated association and as head of an international religious organization.” O’Bryan I, 490
F. Supp. 2d at 830. To the contrary, courts have generally treated the Holy See as a foreign state for
purposes of the FSIA. See Dale, 337 F. Supp. 2d at 832 (treating the Vatican as a foreign state for
the purposes of the FSIA); English, 676 F. Supp. at 764 (concluding that the Vatican is a foreign
state for the purposes of the FSIA); Doe v. Holy See, 434 F. Supp. 2d 925, 933 (D. Or. 2006)
(applying FSIA’s foreign state status to the Holy See). Consequently, we reject plaintiffs’
contention that they are not suing the Holy See that has been recognized by the United States
government, but a parallel non-sovereign entity conjured up by the plaintiffs.
The structure and intent of the FSIA also counsel us to reject the plaintiffs’ alternative
capacity approach. As the Supreme Court has explained, by enacting FSIA, Congress intended to
adopt the “restrictive theory” of sovereign immunity, “under which ‘the immunity of the sovereign
is recognized with regard to sovereign or public acts (jure imperii) of a state, but not with respect
to private acts (jure gestionis).’” Permanent Mission of India to the U.N. v. City of New York, 127
S. Ct. 2352, 2357 (2007) (quoting Alfred Dunhill of London, Inc. v. Republic of Cuba, 425 U.S. 682,
711 (1976)).
In order to implement the “restrictive theory” of sovereign immunity and limit immunity to
sovereign acts but not private acts, Congress crafted exceptions to FSIA. See 28 U.S.C. 1605(a).
For example, “[t]he ‘commercial activity’ exception of the FSIA withdraws immunity in cases
involving essentially private commercial activities of foreign sovereigns that have an impact within
the United States.” Commercial Bank of Kuwait v. Rafidain Bank, 15 F.3d 238, 241 (2d Cir. 1994);
see also Orient Mineral Co. v. Bank of China, 506 F.3d 980, 983 (10th Cir. 2007) (“The FSIA’s
commercial activity exceptions, however, permit a foreign sovereign to be sued in a court within the
United States, to the same extent as any private individual . . . .”). In this way, Congress constructed
the FSIA to immunize foreign sovereigns acting in a public capacity, while ensuring that essentially
private activities would be actionable under the FSIA exceptions.
For these reasons, the Supreme Court has stated “[w]e think that the text and structure of the
FSIA demonstrate Congress’ intention that the FSIA be the sole basis for obtaining jurisdiction over
a foreign state in our courts.” Argentine Republic v. Amerada Hess Shipping Corp., 488 U.S. 428,
434 (1989); accord Am. Telecom Co., L.L.C. v. Republic of Leb., 501 F.3d 534, 538 (6th Cir. 2007).
This conclusion stems from the FSIA’s rule-plus-exceptions structure; if a party believes that the
foreign state was not acting in its capacity as a sovereign, but instead in its private capacity, then the
party can seek redress via one of the FSIA’s exceptions.
Thus, if plaintiffs believe that the Holy See acted in a private capacity, then the plaintiffs are
limited to arguing that an exception to the FSIA applies; such claims cannot serve as reasons to
avoid the FSIA altogether. The exceptions to FSIA capture all instances where Congress has
deemed conduct, if pursued by a foreign sovereign, sufficiently private so as to eliminate foreign
sovereign immunity. In turn, the alternative-capacity argument can only succeed to the extent that
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4Both the Holy See and the United States argue that this court should refrain from making a determination
regarding whether the Holy See is a foreign sovereign because such an issue is a non-justiciable political question. They
rely on the following language: “It has been specifically decided that ‘Who is the sovereign, de jure or de facto, of a
territory is not a judicial, but is a political question, the determination of which by the legislative and executive
departments of any government conclusively binds the judges, as well as all other officers, citizens and subjects of that
government.’” Oetjen, 246 U.S. at 302 (quoting Jones v. United States, 137 U.S. 202, 212 (1890)); see also United
States v. Belmont, 301 U.S. 324, 328 (1937) (“[T]hat who is the sovereign of a territory is not a judicial question, but
one the determination of which by the political departments conclusively binds the courts; and that recognition by these
departments is retroactive and validates all actions and conduct of the government so recognized from the
commencement of its existence.”).
This argument misapprehends the nature of the court’s inquiry. Plaintiffs do not ask this court to contravene
the executive branch’s recognition of the Holy See as a foreign sovereign. Instead, they either ask this court to determine
that they can rightfully bring suit against a parallel religious entity that also goes by the name “Holy See” or that the
conduct of the Holy See rendered it a private actor in this case. Courts routinely determine whether incorporated entities
satisfy the criteria necessary to be considered an agency or instrumentality of a recognized foreign state pursuant to 28
U.S.C. § 1603(b) without becoming entangled in a non-justiciable political question. See,e.g., Gould, Inc. v. Pechiney
Ugine Kuhlmann, 853 F.2d 445 (6th Cir. 1988) (agreeing with the district court’s determination that the corporation in
question could qualify for foreign sovereign immunity status because the majority owner of the corporation was a foreign
state) (abrogated on other grounds by Republic of Arg. v. Weltover, Inc., 504 U.S. 607 (1992)); Gen. Elec. Capital Corp.
v. Grossman, 991 F.2d 1376 (8th Cir. 1993) (same). And courts can consider the conduct of the Holy See in order to
determine whether the type of conduct alleged should cause the Holy See to lose its sovereign immunity. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1605(a).
5Although this court “may exercise [its] discretion to review an issue not raised below in exceptional cases or
particular circumstances, or when the rule would produce a plain miscarriage of justice,” United States v. Chesney, 86
F.3d 564, 567-68 (6th Cir. 1996) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted), we see no such exceptional
circumstances in this case.
it identifies conduct that fits within one of the exceptions outlined under FSIA. See 28 U.S.C.
§ 1605(a).4
We next consider the plaintiffs contention that the FSIA, as applied to the Holy See, violates
the Establishment Clause.
“Issues that are not squarely presented to the trial court are considered waived and may not
be raised on appeal.” Thurman v. Yellow Freight Sys., 90 F.3d 1160, 1172 (6th Cir. 1996).
Similarly, “vague references fail to clearly present the objection in the district court so as to preserve
the issue for appellate review.” Bldg. Serv. Local 47 Cleaning Contractors Pension Plan v.
Grandview Raceway, 46 F.3d 1392, 1399 (6th Cir. 1995).
Plaintiffs contend that they preserved their constitutional claims by articulating them in their
response to the Holy See’s motion to dismiss. However, plaintiffs’ response brief includes no such
constitutional claims. Plaintiffs’ response to the Holy See’s First Amendment challenges cannot
preserve plaintiffs’ own Establishment Clause claim. Thus, plaintiffs waived their constitutional
challenges to the FSIA.5
We next address the Holy See’s contention that the district court misapplied the FSIA’s
burden-shifting process.
In the proceedings before the district court, the Holy See filed a motion to dismiss for lack
of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). This motion
presented a facial attack to plaintiffs’ complaint.
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 8
As this court has previously noted, “Rule 12(b)(1) motions to dismiss for lack of
subject-matter jurisdiction generally come in two varieties: a facial attack or a factual attack.”
Gentek Bldg. Prods. v. Sherwin-Williams Co., 491 F.3d 320, 330 (6th Cir. 2007) (citing Ohio Nat’l
Life Ins. Co. v. United States, 922 F.2d 320, 325 (6th Cir. 1990)). “A facial attack on the
subject-matter jurisdiction alleged in the complaint questions merely the sufficiency of the
pleading.” Id. And, “[w]hen reviewing a facial attack, a district court takes the allegations in the
complaint as true . . . . If those allegations establish federal claims, jurisdiction exists.” Id.
However, “conclusory allegations or legal conclusions masquerading as factual conclusions will not
suffice to prevent a motion to dismiss.” Mezibov v. Allen, 411 F.3d 712, 716 (6th Cir. 2005).
Applying the standards under 12(b)(1) to the FSIA context is complicated by FSIA’s burdenshifting
process. As previously noted by this court, the legislative history of FSIA clearly envisions
a burden-shifting process:
The burden will remain on the foreign state to produce evidence in support of its
claim of immunity. Thus, evidence must be produced to establish that a foreign state
or one of its subdivisions, agencies or instrumentalities is the defendant in the suit
and that the plaintiff’s claim relates to a public act of the foreign state – that is, an
act not within the exceptions in sections 1605-1607. Once the foreign state has
produced such prima facie evidence of immunity, the burden of going forward would
shift to the plaintiff to produce evidence establishing that the foreign state is not
entitled to immunity. The ultimate burden of proving immunity would rest with the
foreign state.
Gould, 853 F.2d at 452 n.5 (quoting H.R. Rep. No. 1487, 94th Cong., 2d Sess. 1, 17 (1976),
reprinted in 1976 U.S.C.C.A.N. 6604, 6616) (abrogated on other grounds by Republic of Arg., 504
U.S. 607).
The Holy See contends that this burden-shifting process was misapplied by the district court.
In addressing the Holy See’s motion to dismiss, the district court explained that “once the asserted
allegations bring claims within the statutory exceptions to FSIA, the burden then shifts to the party
asserting immunity to prove that the exceptions do not apply.” O’Bryan v. Holy See, 471 F. Supp.
2d 784, 791 (W.D. Ky. 2007) (“O’Bryan II”) (citing Siderman de Blake v. Republic of Arg., 965
F.2d 699, 707-08 (9th Cir. 1992)) (emphasis in original). The Holy See, however, argues that the
burden-shifting analysis, because of its reliance on evidence from the parties, cannot be applied to
a facial motion to dismiss, which simply attacks the legal sufficiency of the complaint.
Federal courts have consistently applied the FSIA’s burden-shifting process to facial motions
to dismiss; in doing so, courts simply look to the general standards for evaluating motions to dismiss
pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1) and take the factual allegations of the plaintiff as true. See, e.g., Siderman
de Blake, 965 F.2d at 708 n.9 (noting that “even if the [plaintiffs] had presented nothing more than
the allegations in their complaint . . . it would have been incumbent upon [defendant] to respond to
those allegations”); Kilburn v. Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, 376 F.3d 1123, 1127
(D.C. Cir. 2004) (“[I]f the defendant challenges only the legal sufficiency of the plaintiff's
jurisdictional allegations, then the district court should take the plaintiff's factual allegations as true
and determine whether they bring the case within any of the [FSIA] exceptions to immunity invoked
by the plaintiff.”) (quoting Phoenix Consulting, Inc. v. Republic of Angl., 216 F.3d 36, 40 (D.C. Cir.
2000)); Doe, 434 F. Supp. 2d at 933 (“If the foreign state makes [the “foreign state”] showing, the
burden of production shifts to the plaintiff to show, either by the allegations in the complaint or by
extrinsic evidence, that at least one of the FSIA exceptions applies. Once the plaintiff offers
evidence that an exception to immunity applies, the party claiming immunity bears the burden of
proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the exception does not apply.” (internal citations
and quotation marks omitted; emphasis added)).
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 9
6While plaintiffs raised the waiver exception in their complaint, they have abandoned this argument in their
briefs before this court.
We conclude that the district court correctly applied the FSIA’s burden shifting process. It
first determined that the Holy See was a foreign state and thus eligible for immunity from suit under
the FSIA. O'Bryan I, 490 F. Supp. 2d at 829-30. Having done so, it considered the allegations in
plaintiffs’ complaint that a number of exceptions to FSIA immunity applied and concluded that the
tortious act exception did in fact apply. O’Bryan II, 471 F. Supp. at 792. As the district court
correctly noted, the Holy See could still retain immunity if it could “prove that the exceptions do not
apply.” Id. at 791. Such proof would presumably amount to a “factual attack” pursuant to Rule
12(b)(1). Cf. Gentek Bldg. Prods., 491 F.3d at 330 (“Where . . . there is a factual attack on the
subject-matter jurisdiction alleged in the complaint, no presumptive truthfulness applies to the
Because the plaintiffs can only bring suit against the Holy See in its capacity as a foreign
sovereign, the district court has subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute only if the Holy See is
“not entitled to immunity [under any of the the FSIA exceptions].” See 28 U.S.C. § 1330(a). Title
28 U.S.C. § 1605(a) provides the following relevant exceptions to a foreign state’s immunity under
the FSIA:
(a) A foreign state shall not be immune from the jurisdiction of courts of the United
States or of the States in any case –
(1) in which the foreign state has waived its immunity either explicitly or by
implication, notwithstanding any withdrawal of the waiver which the foreign state
may purport to effect except in accordance with the terms of the waiver;6
(2) in which the action is based upon a commercial activity carried on in the
United States by the foreign state; or upon an act performed in the United States
in connection with a commercial activity of the foreign state elsewhere; or upon
an act outside the territory of the United States in connection with a commercial
activity of the foreign state elsewhere and that act causes a direct effect in the
United States;
. . .
(5) not otherwise encompassed in paragraph (2) above, in which money damages
are sought against a foreign state for personal injury or death, or damage to or loss
of property, occurring in the United States and caused by the tortious act or
omission of that foreign state or of any official or employee of that foreign state
while acting within the scope of his office or employment; except this paragraph
shall not apply to –
(A) any claim based upon the exercise or performance or the failure to
exercise or perform a discretionary function regardless of whether the
discretion be abused, or
(B) any claim arising out of malicious prosecution, abuse of process, libel,
slander, misrepresentation, deceit, or interference with contract rights . . . .
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 10
7The Holy See argues that this court has no jurisdiction to hear plaintiffs’ cross-appeal. This court has
jurisdiction to hear the Holy See’s appeal because the “denial of sovereign immunity is immediately appealable under
the collateral order doctrine as a final decision, pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291.” Keller, 277 F.3d at 815. In order to hear
plaintiffs’ cross-appeal, this court would have to exercise pendent jurisdiction: “The doctrine of pendent appellate
jurisdiction allows an appellate court, in its discretion, to exercise jurisdiction over issues that are not independently
appealable when those issues are ‘inextricably intertwined’ with matters over which the appellate court properly and
independently has jurisdiction.” Chambers v. Ohio Dep’t of Human Servs., 145 F.3d 793, 797 (6th Cir. 1998). “A
pendent appellate claim can be regarded as ‘inextricably intertwined’ with a properly reviewable claim only if the
pendent claim ‘is coterminous with, or subsumed in, the claim before the court on interlocutory appeal.’” Id. (quoting
Law v. Nat’l Collegiate Athletic Ass’n, 134 F.3d 1025, 1028 (10th Cir. 1998)). To be sure, “[t]he ‘inextricably
intertwined’ requirement of pendent appellate jurisdiction is not meant to be loosely applied as a matter of discretion;
rather, such jurisdiction only may be exercised when the appealable issue at hand cannot be resolved without addressing
the nonappealable collateral issue.” Id.
Despite this strict standard for pendent jurisdiction, we conclude that pendent jurisdiction should be exercised
in this case. Plaintiffs seek to challenge the district court’s ruling on the applicability of the commercial activity
exception of the FSIA. The ultimate issue of this interlocutory appeal – whether the Holy See is immune from suit
pursuant to the FSIA – also hinges on a finding that this exception does not apply. Moreover, given the relatedness of
the two exceptions, judicial economy would counsel hearing these two issues together. Cf. Rendall-Speranza v. Nassim,
107 F.3d 913 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (exercising pendent appellate jurisdiction pursuant to an interlocutory appeal of the denial
of sovereign immunity under the FSIA).
The district court determined that the “commercial activity” exception did not apply, O’Bryan II,
471 F. Supp. 2d at 789, a determination that the plaintiffs contest in their cross-appeal.7 The district
court also found that it had subject matter jurisdiction over some of the plaintiffs’ claims under the
“tortious act” exception, id. at 792, a determination that the Holy See now appeals. We will consider
the application of the various exceptions to sovereign immunity under the FSIA in turn.
a. The Commercial Activity Exception
As noted above, the commercial activity exception reads as follows:
A foreign state shall not be immune from the jurisdiction of courts of the United
States or of the States in any case . . . in which the action is based upon a commercial
activity carried on in the United States by the foreign state; or upon an act performed
in the United States in connection with a commercial activity of the foreign state
elsewhere; or upon an act outside the territory of the United States in connection with
a commercial activity of the foreign state elsewhere and that act causes a direct effect
in the United States . . . .
28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(2). “A ‘commercial activity’ means either a regular course of commercial
conduct or a particular commercial transaction or act. The commercial character of an activity shall
be determined by reference to the nature of the course of conduct or particular transaction or act,
rather than by reference to its purpose.” 28 U.S.C. § 1603(d). In addition, “the commercial activity
relied upon by plaintiff for jurisdictional purposes must be also the activity upon which the lawsuit
is based; that is, there must be a connection between that activity and the act complained of in the
lawsuit.” Gould, 853 F.2d at 452 (citing Riedel v. Bancam, S.A., 792 F.2d 587, 591 (6th Cir. 1986)).
The Supreme Court has further analyzed the statutory definition of commercial activity,
stating that
[W]hen a foreign government acts, not as regulator of a market, but in the manner
of a private player within it, the foreign sovereign’s actions are “commercial” within
the meaning of the FSIA. Moreover, because the Act provides that the commercial
character of an act is to be determined by reference to its “nature” rather than its
“purpose,” the question is not whether the foreign government is acting with a profit
motive or instead with the aim of fulfilling uniquely sovereign objectives. Rather, the
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 11
issue is whether the particular actions that the foreign state performs (whatever the
motive behind them) are the type of actions by which a private party engages in trade
and traffic or commerce.
Republic of Arg., 504 U.S. at 614 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). By
“withdraw[ing] immunity in cases involving essentially private commercial activities,” the
commercial activity exception “reflects the ‘restrictive’ theory of sovereign immunity that underlies
the FSIA.” Commercial Bank of Kuwait v. Rafidain Bank, 15 F.3d 238, 241 (2d Cir. 1994).
The Supreme Court applied the Weltover standard in Saudi Arabia v. Nelson, 507 U.S. 349
(1993). In Nelson, the plaintiff, a United States citizen and a former employee of the Saudi
government, had allegedly been imprisoned and tortured by Saudi officials for reporting defects
regarding hospital equipment to a Saudi government commission. Upon release, the plaintiff filed
suit against the Saudi government, alleging, inter alia, that the government was negligent in its
failure to warn him of the undisclosed dangers of his employment position (i.e. the likelihood of
being imprisoned and tortured). Id. at 352-54. In finding that the Saudis’ conduct was not
commercial in nature, the Supreme Court analyzed Nelson’s claims as follows:
[T]he intentional conduct alleged here (the Saudi Government’s wrongful arrest,
imprisonment, and torture of Nelson) could not qualify as commercial under the
restrictive theory. The conduct boils down to abuse of the power of its police by the
Saudi Government, and however monstrous such abuse undoubtedly may be, a
foreign state’s exercise of the power of its police has long been understood for
purposes of the restrictive theory as peculiarly sovereign in nature . . . . Exercise of
the powers of police and penal officers is not the sort of action by which private
parties can engage in commerce.
Id. at 361-62. Indeed, directly addressing Nelson’s attempt to advance a failure-to-warn theory of
the case, the Supreme Court responded:
[T]his is merely a semantic ploy. For aught we can see, a plaintiff could recast
virtually any claim of intentional tort committed by sovereign act as a claim of failure
to warn, simply by charging the defendant with an obligation to announce its own
tortious propensity before indulging it. To give jurisdictional significance to this feint
of language would effectively thwart the Act’s manifest purpose to codify the
restrictive theory of foreign sovereign immunity.
Id. at 363.
The analysis in Weltover and Nelson points to two distinct limitations on the application of
the commercial activity exception. First, the activity must be of the type in which private
individuals engage; if the activities in question are not private, but sovereign in nature, then the
commercial activity exception will not apply. This flows from the purpose of the commercial
activity exception – to encapsulate the restrictive theory of sovereign immunity, which grants
immunity for the public, not private, actions of a sovereign. Permanent Mission of India to the UN
v. City of New York, 127 S. Ct. 2352, 2357 (2007) (quoting Alfred Dunhill of London, Inc. v.
Republic of Cuba, 425 U.S. 682, 711 (1976)); see also City School of Detroit v. Government of
France, 1990 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 19577, at *9-*10 (E.D. Mich. 1990) (concluding that the
commercial activity exception did not apply because “[t]he granting of accreditation to a private
school by a foreign government is by its very nature a sovereign function, incapable of being
performed by a private individual [and] . . . the welfare and education of its citizenry is . . . an area
where sovereign activity is typically asserted”).
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 12
Second, the Weltover and Nelson cases also instruct courts to avoid the artful pleading of
plaintiffs and look to the core of the activities alleged to be commercial in nature. Thus, the
Southern District of New York has explained that “Nelson rest[s] on a broader principle, directing
district courts first to ascertain the claim’s gravamen to determine whether the FSIA plaintiff is
simply using creative nomenclature as a semantic ploy to shroud the true essence of its theory and
obtain jurisdiction over a claim that Congress did not intend to be brought against a foreign
sovereign.” Leutwyler v. Office of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah, 184 F. Supp. 2d 277, 299
(S.D.N.Y. 2001) (internal quotation marks and citation omitted). District courts have applied both
limiting principles in instructive contexts.
Employing this principle, the District of Oregon has recently considered the commercial
activity exception in circumstances similar to our own. In Doe v. Holy See, the district court of
Oregon considered the applicability of the commercial activity exception to claims against the Holy
See stemming from the alleged abuse of the plaintiff by his priest, a Holy See employee. 434 F.
Supp. 2d at 937-47. After a lengthy analysis of the term “commercial activity” under the FSIA, the
district court stated as follows:
[T]he Supreme Court has counseled courts not to lose sight of the ultimate issue:
whether the true essence of the complaint is commercial. Nelson, 507 U.S. at 363.
Here, plaintiff’s complaint does not allege property damage, breach of contract for
goods or services, product liability, copyright infringement, an indebtedness yet
unpaid on a loan or other transaction, or any other theory whose true essence is
commercial. Instead, at the heart of plaintiff's complaint is the injury inflicted by a
sexually abusive priest at plaintiff's church, a claim clearly sounding in tort.
Id. at 942. In other words, the Doe Court did not rely on the public-private inquiry, but instead it
examined the “gravaman” of the claims advanced by the plaintiff. See Leutwyler, 184 F. Supp. 2d
at 299. Regardless of how the plaintiff phrased his complaint, none of the allegations truly sounded
in commercial activity, and thus the commercial activity exception did not apply. Doe, 434 F. Supp.
2d at 947.
Both limiting principles apply to plaintiffs’ attempt to invoke the commercial activity
exception in our own case. On one front, all of the claims advanced by plaintiffs stem from the
promulgation of the purported 1962 Policy by the Holy See. Indeed, in arguing that the
discretionary function exception did not apply, plaintiffs themselves emphasize the force of the
purported policy and the potential for sanction if Holy See employees chose not to comply.
In addition, the gravaman of plaintiffs’ claims is the tortious conduct of priests which was
allegedly facilitated by the tortious conduct of Holy See employees. Thus to allow plaintiffs to
obtain jurisdiction under the commercial activity exception through a semantic ploy would allow
them to “obtain jurisdiction over a claim that Congress did not intend to be brought against a foreign
sovereign.” See Leutwyler, 184 F. Supp. 2d at 299. We therefore conclude that the commercial
activity exception does not apply.
b. The Tortious Act Exception
Pursuant to the FSIA, a plaintiff can establish subject matter jurisdiction over a foreign
sovereign under the tortious act exception if there has been a tortious act (1) “occurring in the United
States”; (2) “caused by [a] tortious act or omission”; (3) where the alleged acts or omissions were
those of a “foreign state or of any official or employee of that foreign state”; and (4) those acts or
omissions were done within the scope of tortfeasor’s employment. See 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(5).
Because, however, there are exceptions to the tortious act exception, our inquiry does not
end here. If the tortious act in question was either (1) “based upon the exercise or performance or
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 13
8As noted above, the class representatives all resided in the state of Kentucky at the time of the alleged abuse.
“[I]n FSIA cases, we use the forum state’s choice of law rules to resolve ‘all issues,’ except jurisdictional ones.” Karaha
Bodas Co. v. Perusahaan Pertambangan Minyak Dan Gas Bumi Negara, 313 F.3d 70, 85 (2d Cir. 2002). According
to Kentucky’s choice of law rules, Kentucky law would apply where Kentucky is the state where the relevant acts or
omissions occurred. See, e.g., Vaughn v. United States, 1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 35795, at *9 n.2 (6th Cir. Dec. 16, 1997)
(applying Kentucky law in a case arising under the Federal Tort Claims Act).
However, the choice of law inquiry is complicated by the fact that the case before is us is a class action suit.
Under Phillips Petroleum Co. v. Shutts, 472 U.S. 797 (1985), due process requirements apply to nationwide class action
lawsuits, requiring courts to engage in individualized choice of law analysis for each plaintiff’s claims and not just named
plaintiffs. Id. at 822-23.
But the individualized choice of law analysis is only necessary once the class seeks certification. While the class
remains a putative class, courts focus on the application of the forum’s choice of law rules to the named plaintiffs.
Cunningham v. PFL Life Ins. Co., 42 F. Supp. 2d 872, 883 (N.D. Iowa 1999) (“[I]t is important to note that at this point
in the litigation, the Court has not certified the Plaintiffs as class representatives. Accordingly, the Court will not make
a choice of law determination that will bind the putative class in this Order. This Order only contemplates the claims of
the named Plaintiffs . . . .”); cf. Rakes v. Life Investors Ins. Co. of Am., 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52719, at *33 (N.D. Iowa
July 20, 2007) (“[I]n the case at bar the court has not yet certified Plaintiffs as class representatives. Therefore, nothing
in this order may be construed as a non-individualized choice-of-law determination that binds all 150,000 putative
members of the Class.”). We, in the instant case, need not engage in such an individualized choice of law analysis
because plaintiffs have not yet sought certification.
the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function” or (2)“ar[o]s[e] out of . . .
misrepresentation [or] deceit . . . ” then the foreign sovereign retains its immunity. 28 U.S.C.
§ 1605(a)(5)(A), (B).
In determining whether the tortious act exception applies, courts, as a rule, apply state
substantive law: “where state law provides a rule of liability governing private individuals, the FSIA
requires the application of that rule to foreign states in like circumstances.” First Nat'l City Bank
v. Banco Para El Comercio Exterior De Cuba, 462 U.S. 611, 622 n.11 (1983); see also Pescatore
v. PAN AM, 97 F.3d 1, 12 (2d Cir. 1996) (stating that “the FSIA thereby operates as a ‘pass-through’
to state law principles”). Thus, “[a]s a general rule, state law should provide a cause of action
against a foreign nation in a section 1605(a)(7) claim [under the Tortious Act Exception].”
Damarrell v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 2005 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 5343, at *55 (D.D.C. 2005).
Therefore, to determine the applicability of the tortious act exception, we must consider the elements
of the exception, applying Kentucky state law where applicable.8
i. Elements of the Tortious Act Exception
(a) “Occurring in the United States”
“Section 1605(a)(5) is limited by its terms . . . to those cases in which the damage to or loss
of property occurs in the United States.” Amerada Hess Shipping Corp., 488 U.S. at 439 (emphasis
omitted). Thus, in contrast to the commercial activity exception, a tortious act having “direct
effects” in the United States will not satisfy the requirements of the tortious activity exception. Id.
at 441. Courts in both the Second and D.C. Circuits have interpreted this requirement to mean that
the “entire tort” must occur in the United States. See, e.g., Asociacion de Reclamantes v. United
Mexican States, 735 F.2d 1517, 1524-25 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (rejecting application of the tortious
activity exception because “the entire tort would not have occurred [in the United States]”); Kline
v. Kaneko, 685 F. Supp. 386, 391 (S.D.N.Y. 1988) (“If the non-commercial tort exception is to
apply, the entire tort must be committed in the United States.”); see also Burnett v. Al Baraka Inv.
& Dev. Corp. (In re Terrorist Attacks), 349 F. Supp. 2d 765, 795 (S.D.N.Y. 2005) (collecting
Second Circuit cases). But see Olsen v. Gov’t of Mexico, 729 F.2d 641, 646 (9th Cir. 1984)
(abrogated on other grounds by Joseph v. Office of Consulate Gen. of Nig., 830 F.2d 1018, 1026
(1987)) (“[I]f plaintiffs allege at least one entire tort occurring in the United States, they may claim
under section 1605(a)(5).”).
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 14
9The Holy See contends that plaintiffs failed to identify specifically which clergy engaged in the relevant
tortious conduct. As a result, the Holy See seizes upon the language in the complaint which names the “Louisville
Corporation” as one of the agents of the Holy See having engaged in the tortious conduct; in turn, the Holy See argues
that all of the allegations in the complaint can only be analyzed in terms of the actions of the Louisville Corporation.
And, the Holy See believes that corporate law prevents holding it liable for the actions of another corporate entity.
However, this analysis begins with a faulty premise. Plaintiffs pled repeatedly that the tortious acts of which they
complain were also committed by priests, clerics, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, agents and employees. General
allegations against employees are sufficient for the purposes of notice pleading: “a complaint that generally alleges an
employer’s negligence need not specifically identify each employee involved to hold the employer liable under
respondeat superior.” Cornejo-Ramirez v. James G. Garcia, Inc., 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 20064, at *13 (D. Ariz. 2000)
(also noting “[t]he court is required to examine Plaintiffs’ complaint under the standard set forth in Fed R. Civ. P. 8(f)
that ‘all pleading shall be so construed as to do substantial justice’”).
We join the Second and D.C. Circuits in concluding that in order to apply the tortious act
exception, the “entire tort” must occur in the United States. This position finds support in the
Supreme Court’s decision in Amerada Hess Shipping: “the exception in § 1605(a)(5) covers only
torts occurring within the territorial jurisdiction of the United States.” 488 U.S. at 441. Moreover,
the purpose of the tortious activity exception is limited: “Congress’ primary purpose in enacting
§ 1605(a)(5) was to eliminate a foreign state’s immunity for traffic accidents and other torts
committed in the United States, for which liability is imposed under domestic tort law.” Id. at 439-
40 (citing H.R. Rep., at 14). Thus, it seems most in keeping with both Supreme Court precedent and
the purposes of the FSIA to grant subject matter jurisdiction under the tortious activity exception
only to torts which were entirely committed within the United States.
(b) Caused by an Act or Omission
In Kentucky, “[l]iability for a negligent act follows a finding of proximate or legal cause,”
which is defined as “a finding of causation in fact, i.e., substantial cause, and the absence of a public
policy rule of law which prohibits the imposition of liability.” Deutsch v. Shein, 597 S.W.2d 141,
143-44 (Ky. 1980). “In order to be a legal cause of another’s harm, it is not enough that the harm
would not have occurred had the actor not been negligent. . . . The negligence must also be a
substantial factor in bringing about the plaintiff’s harm.” Id. (quoting Restatement of Torts (Second)
§ 431, cmt. a).
(c) Official or Employee of a Foreign State
Kentucky law appears to have adopted the Restatement (Third) of Agency § 7.07 definition
of employee when addressing claims of vicarious liability: “an employee is an agent whose principal
controls or has the right to control the manner and means of the agent’s performance of work . . . .”
Papa John’s Int’l, Inc. v. McCoy, 2008 Ky. LEXIS 16, at *16 (Ky. 2008) (quoting Restatement
(Third) of Agency § 707).9 In addition, “the fact that work is performed gratuitously does not
relieve a principal of liability.” Id.
(d) Scope of Employment
“State law, not federal common law, governs whether an officer’s or employee’s action is
within the scope of employment in determining the applicability of the FSIA.” Moran v. Kingdom
of Saudi Arabia, 27 F.3d 169, 173 (5th Cir. 1994) (applying Mississippi law) (citing First Nat’l City
Bank v. Banco Para el Comercio Exterior de Cuba, 462 U.S. 611, 622 n.11 (1983)); see also, e.g.,
Doe, 434 F. Supp. 2d at 944 (applying Oregon law); Robinson v. Gov't of Malay., 269 F.3d 133, 145
(2d Cir. 2001) (applying New York law); Randolph v. Budget Rent-A-Car, 97 F.3d 319, 326-27 (9th
Cir. 1996) (applying California law). Because the conduct alleged by the named plaintiffs occurred
in Kentucky, Kentucky law applies to the instant case.
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 15
Under Kentucky law, for alleged conduct to be considered within the scope of employment
“the conduct must be of the same general nature as that authorized or incidental to the conduct
authorized.” Osborne v. Payne, 31 S.W.3d 911, 915 (Ky. 2000). Thus, “[u]nder the doctrine of
respondeat superior, an employer can be held vicariously liable for an employee’s tortious actions
if committed in the scope of his or her employment.” Papa John’s Int’l, 2008 Ky. LEXIS 16, at
*28-*29. “In the area of intentional torts, the focus is consistently on the purpose or motive of the
employee in determining whether he or she was acting within the scope of employment.” Id. at *29.
However, “[a] principal is not liable under the doctrine of respondeat superior unless the intentional
wrongs of the agent were calculated to advance the cause of the principal or were appropriate to the
normal scope of the operator’s employment.” Osborne, 31 S.W.3d at 915. Applying these
principles, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled that a priest’s adulterous conduct could not be
considered within the scope of his employment, even though the underlying conduct was intentional.
Osborne, 31 S.W.3d at 915.
ii. Exceptions to the Tortious Act Exception
(a) Discretionary Function Exception to the Tortious Act Exception
The FSIA does not define “discretionary functions.” To interpret the FSIA’s discretionary
function exception, courts typically apply the interpretation of the discretionary function exception
of the Federal Tort Claims Act (the “FTCA”), because “[n]ot only does the language of the FSIA
discretionary function exception replicate that of the [FTCA], 28 U.S.C. § 2680(a), but the
legislative history of the FSIA, in explaining section 1605(a)(5)(A), directs us to the FTCA.” Olsen,
729 F.2d at 646 (citing H.R. Rep. at 21); see also Rodriguez v. Republic of Costa Rica, 297 F.3d 1,
8 (1st Cir. 2002); Office of Consulate Gen. of Nig., 830 F.2d at 1026 (9th Cir. 1987).
In determining whether particular conduct falls under the FTCA’s, and in turn under the
FSIA’s, discretionary function exception, courts apply the two part Berkovitz test:
The first inquiry is whether the challenged action involved an element of choice or
judgment, for it is clear that the exception “will not apply when a federal statute,
regulation, or policy specifically prescribes a course of action for an employee to
follow.” If choice or judgment is exercised, the second inquiry is whether that
choice or judgment is of the type Congress intended to exclude from liability - that
is, whether the choice or judgment was one involving social, economic or political
Vickers v. United States, 228 F.3d 944, 949 (9th Cir. 2000) (internal citations omitted) (quoting
Berkovitz v. United States, 486 U.S. 531, 536 (1988)); Rodriguez, 297 F.3d at 9 (applying the twopart
Berkovitz test to the FSIA’s discretionary function exception). The Supreme Court in Berkovitz
explained the rationale behind the discretionary function exception:
The basis for the discretionary function exception was Congress’ desire to prevent
judicial ‘second-guessing’ of legislative and administrative decisions grounded in
social, economic, and political policy through the medium of an action in tort. The
exception, properly construed, therefore protects only governmental actions and
decisions based on considerations of public policy.
Berkovitz, 486 U.S. at 536-37 (internal quotation marks and citation omitted).
A number of courts have applied the Berkovitz test to cases of negligent hiring, concluding
that the selection of employees, officials and officers typically falls within the scope of the FTCA’s
discretionary function exception. See, e.g., United States v. Gaubert, 499 U.S. 315, 332-34 (1991)
(finding that the negligent selection of directors and officers falls squarely under the FTCA’s
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 16
10See supra, n.1.
discretionary function exception); Burkhart v. Washington Metro. Area Transit Auth., 112 F.3d
1207, 1217 (D.C. Cir. 1997) (“The hiring, training, and supervision choices that [the defendant]
faces are choices susceptible to policy judgment. The hiring decisions of a public entity require
consideration of numerous factors, including budgetary constraints, public perception, economic
conditions, individual backgrounds, office diversity, experience and employer intuition.” (internal
quotation marks and citation omitted)); Tonelli v. United States, 60 F.3d 492, 496 (8th Cir. 1995)
(“The post office’s choice between several potential employees involves the weighing of individual
backgrounds, office diversity, experience and employer intuition. These multi-factored choices
require the balancing of competing objectives, and are of the nature and quality that Congress
intended to shield from tort liability.” (internal quotation marks and citation omitted)); cf. Carlyle
v. United States, Dep’t of Army, 674 F.2d 554, 557 (6th Cir. 1982) (“Any decision to supervise
[army recruits] only by means of letters and not to place personnel in the Hotel was a discretionary
function and outside federal jurisdiction.”).
(b) Arising Out of Misrepresentation or Deceit Exceptions to the
Tortious Act Exception
The scope of the misrepresentation or deceit exception to the tortious act exception is an
unsettled matter. Courts generally have looked to the definition of misrepresentation in the FTCA
as a guide for defining the term under the FSIA, relying on the legislative history of the FSIA for
such comparison. See, e.g., Cabiri v. Gov’t of the Republic of Ghana, 165 F.3d 193, 200 n.4 (2d Cir.
1999) (“The FSIA House Report provides that ‘the exceptions provided in subparagraph[] . . . (B)
of section 1605(a)(5) correspond to many of the claims with respect to which the U.S. Government
retains immunity under the [FTCA], 28 U.S.C. 2680(a) and (h).”) (quoting H.R. Rep. at 21); see also
De Sanchez v. Banco Central de Nicar., 770 F.2d 1385, 1398 (5th Cir. 1985).
In addition, both the Second and Ninth Circuits have dismissed claims against foreign
sovereigns where the foreign sovereign allegedly provided false or misleading information regarding
the whereabouts of the plaintiffs’ relatives. See Cabiri, 165 F.3d 193, 200 (dismissing claim “for
emotional injury caused by the refusal of a foreign state, however nefarious, to give its citizens in
the United States full or truthful information concerning its operations”); Kozorowski v. Russian
Fed’n, No. 93-16388, 1997 U.S. App. LEXIS 26266 (9th Cir. Sept. 19, 1997) (dismissing claims
of intentional infliction of emotional distress, fraud and deceit, conspiracy and other claims because
they were premised on the Soviet Union’s failure to disclose its role in the 1940 massacre of Polish
soldiers and therefore arose out of misrepresentation and deceit).
iii. Application of the Tortious Act Exception to the Instant Case
The difficulty in applying the elements of the tortious act exception to plaintiffs’ complaint
is the manner in which plaintiffs have pled their claims. In their complaint, plaintiffs advance the
following claims: violation of customary international law of human rights, negligence, breach of
fiduciary duty, tort of outrage/infliction of emotional distress, deceit and misrepresentation.10 In
each of their claims, plaintiffs base their theories of liability not only on the actions of the Holy See
itself, but also on the acts of the Holy See’s agents and employees. As a result, we must analyze
each claim to see not only which claims survive, but which parts of each claim survive.
Looking first to the fourth requirement for the application of the tortious act exception, the
Kentucky Supreme Court’s holding in Osborne, 31 S.W.3d at 915, leads to the inescapable
conclusion that the alleged acts of sexual abuse were not done while the alleged tortfeasors were
acting within the scope of their employment. Thus, the tortious act exception to the FSIA’s grant
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 17
11Plaintiffs appear to have agreed with these applications of the tortious act exception: “The Plaintiffs do not
seek to hold the Defendant vicariously liable for the acts of its priests; rather, they seek to hold the Defendant vicariously
liable for the acts of its bishops and archbishops who, following the directives of the Defendant, permitted childhood
sexual abuse to occur.” Indeed, the alleged torts committed by the bishops and archbishops occurred entirely within the
United States. Moreover, complying with the alleged 1962 Policy would fall within the scope of the bishops’ and
archbishops’ employment.
12As noted above, the district court also correctly employed the FSIA burden-shifting analysis in connection
with this inquiry.
of immunity cannot apply to permit suit against the Holy See for sexual abuse by its clergy, even
if the other requirements for its application are met.
Furthermore, as per the FSIA’s explicit terms, in order for the tortious act exception to apply,
the tortious acts in question must have occurred in the United States. Therefore, any portion of
plaintiffs’ claims that relies upon acts committed by the Holy See abroad cannot survive. For
example, the tortious act exception to the FSIA’s grant of immunity would not include any theory
of liability premised on the Holy See’s own negligent supervision because such acts presumably
occurred abroad; moreover, a direct claim leveled against the Holy See for promulgating the 1962
Policy would not fall within the tortious act exception because it too presumably occurred abroad.
In turn, plaintiffs cannot pursue claims based upon the alleged sexual abuse of priests or based upon
the acts of the Holy See that occurred abroad.11
These conclusions are not wholly dispositive, however, of the claims against the Holy See.
As noted before, plaintiffs’ claims are not based solely on the conduct of the Holy See itself or the
allegedly abusive conduct of priests. All of plaintiffs’ claims also advance theories of liability
premised on the conduct of Holy See employees in the United States engaged in the supervision of
the allegedly abusive priests. These portions of plaintiffs’ claims meet the four requirements for
application of the tortious act exception.
First and contrary to the Holy See’s protestations, plaintiffs have pled both that the relevant
archbishops, bishops and other Holy See personnel had knowledge of the alleged sexual abuse of
priests and that they failed to act on that knowledge. In doing so, it would seem that the complaint
also pleads that conduct of the archbishops, bishops and other Holy See personnel were a substantial
factor in causing plaintiffs’ damages, satisfying Kentucky’s causation requirements.
In addition, and as already noted, tortious acts committed by bishops, archbishops and other
Holy See personnel while engaged in the supervision of allegedly abusive priests satisfy the
requirements of the FSIA’s tortious act exception that the tortious act occur in the United States and
within the scope of employment.
Also, for the conduct of bishops and archbishops and other Holy See personnel to serve as
a basis for jurisdiction under the tortious act exception, these bishops, archbishops and Holy See
personnel must have been employees of the Holy See. As noted above, under Kentucky law, this
inquiry focuses on the degree of control exercised by the employer over the individual or individuals
in question. In their complaint, plaintiffs allege facts that demonstrate that the Holy See exercised
a significant degree of control over the bishops and archbishops accused of having committed the
tortious acts in question. Taking these allegations as true, plaintiffs have sufficiently pled the
employee element of the tortious activity exception.12
Thus, the portions of plaintiffs’ claims that are based upon the conduct of bishops,
archbishops and Holy See personnel while supervising allegedly abusive clergy satisfy all four
requirements of the tortious act exception: this conduct served as a substantial cause of the alleged
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 18
13See supra n.1.
abuse; the conduct occurred in the United States; the conduct was within the scope of employment;
and these individuals were, according to the pleadings, Holy See employees.
However, although the four requirements are met for these claims, we must still consider
whether either of the two exceptions to the tortious act exception applies and prevents its
application: the discretionary-function exception and the arising-out-of-misrepresentation-or-deceit
According to the allegations in plaintiffs’ complaint, theories of liability premised upon the
supervision of the allegedly abusive clergy do not implicate the discretionary function exception to
the tortious act exception because the terms of the supervision were not discretionary. According
to the complaint, the 1962 Policy “impose[d] the highest level of secrecy on the handling of clergy
sexual abuse matters.” Plaintiffs contend that this required secrecy prohibited Holy See personnel
from, among other things, reporting childhood sexual abuse to government authorities. Id. Thus,
following the 1962 Policy cannot, on the pleadings in plaintiffs’ complaint, be deemed discretionary.
We now apply these general conclusions to each of the plaintiffs’ remaining claims.13
1) Violation of Customary International Law of Human Rights (Class I Claim II, Class II
Claim I): Plaintiffs plead this claim against the Holy See itself, stating that
[t]he instructions, mandates and dictates of the Defendant, Holy See in the United
States prohibiting the disclosure of the identity and existence of pedophiles and
sexual predators under its control, thereby placing children in a position of peril, is
a gross violation of well-established, universally recognized norms of international
law of human rights.
This claim does not survive against the Holy See as it pertains to the actual promulgation of the 1962
Policy because the promulgation itself occurred abroad. However, this claim does survive against
the Holy See as it pertains to the conduct of its employees who, pursuant to the 1962 Policy, violated
the terms of the relevant international laws through their tortious supervisory conduct over the
allegedly abusive clergy.
2) Negligence (Class I Claim III, Class II Claim II): Plaintiffs present three grounds for
negligence in their complaint: failure to provide “safe care”; failure to “warn”; and failure to report.
The failure to warn and failure to report prongs of the negligence claim survive because they are
premised on the conduct of Holy See employees who were allegedly negligent in their supervision
of abusive clergy. However, the claims of negligence against the Holy See for its own conduct
cannot survive because such negligence would not have occurred in the United States. Furthermore,
the claim of failure to provide safe care does not survive. As the district court noted, the failure to
provide safe care amounts to a claim for negligent hiring. O’Bryan II, 471 F. Supp 2d at 793. And,
as outlined above, claims of negligent hiring fall within the discretionary function exception.
Indeed, the 1962 Policy, even according to plaintiffs’ allegations, only required Holy See employees
not to disclose information regarding sexual misconduct, not to actually hire individuals who had
engaged in prior sexual misconduct.
3) Breach of Fiduciary Duty (Class I Claim IV, Class II Claim III): Plaintiffs plead this claim
against the Holy See itself, stating that “a special legal relationship existed between the Plaintiffs
and the Defendant Holy See, in the nature of a fiduciary relationship, which was carried out by and
through priests, clerics, and administrators under the absolute control of the Defendant . . . .” In
turn, plaintiffs contend that the “Defendant breached fiduciary duties owed to the Plaintiffs,”
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 19
14It also appears that the plaintiffs have abandoned this claim by stating in their response to the Holy See’s
motion to dismiss “[t]he Plaintiffs’ complaint also identifies claims for intentional infliction of emotional distress . . . .
Plaintiffs are no longer pursuing those claims.” (Plaintiffs’ Response to the Holy See’s Motion to Dismiss at 6 n.9).
15In addition, plaintiffs’ complaint states that it pursues these claims against the Holy See “in its capacity as
an Unincorporated Association and Head of an International Religious Organization Only.” As a result, because we have
determined above that the Holy See cannot be sued in such a capacity, these claims would appear to no longer be
relevant. Moreover, plaintiffs admit as much in their Response to the Holy See’s motion to dismiss. Plaintiffs’ Response
premised upon the “duty to warn parents” and the “duty to report known or suspected perpetrators.
This claim survives against the Holy See for the actions of its supervising employees occurring in
the United States. As has already been emphasized, the claim cannot survive against the Holy See
itself for its own failures to warn or report because such tortious conduct would have occurred
4) Tort of Outrage/Infliction of Emotional Distress (Class I Claim V, Class II Claim IV):
Plaintiffs plead this claim against the Holy See itself, stating:
The acts and omissions of the Defendant, Holy See alleged herein, including the
concealment of its policy of harboring and protecting its abusive priests, agents and
employees from public disclosure and prosecution and directives prohibiting the
reporting of child sexual abuse to authorities . . . is conduct which is so outrageous
and extreme in degree, as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency, so as to be
regarded as utterly atrocious in a civilized society.
This claim cannot survive against the Holy See as it pertains to the actual promulgation of the 1962
Policy because the promulgation itself occurred abroad. In addition, it cannot survive against the
Holy See for the conduct of its allegedly abusive priests because the acts of alleged abuse did not
occur within the scope of employment. In contrast, this claim does survive against the Holy See as
it pertains to the conduct of its employees who, pursuant to the 1962 Policy, violated the terms of
the relevant international laws through their tortious supervisory conduct over the allegedly abusive
We next turn to considering whether the surviving theories of liability, as outlined above,
are precluded by the other exception to the tortious act exception: whether they arise out of
misrepresentation or deceit.
In contrast to Cabiri and Kozorowski, plaintiffs’ claims are not best characterized as
stemming directly from the misinformation disseminated by the Holy See. Instead, plaintiffs’ claims
are more akin to claims of negligent supervision as employees of the Holy See are alleged to have
provided inadequate supervision over those under its care. In this way, these claims resemble other
negligent supervision claims more than they resemble claims brought by the plaintiffs in Cabiri and
Kozorowski. See, e.g., Williams v. Ky. Dep’t of Educ., 113 S.W.3d 145, 148 (Ky. 2003) (addressing
claims of negligent supervision on the part of high school faculty which resulted in the death of a
student and noting that “[i]t is well established in this jurisdiction that a school teacher can be held
liable for injuries caused by negligent supervision of his/her students”); see also Yanero v. Davis,
65 S.W.3d 510, 528-31 (Ky. 2001); Nelson v. Turner, No. 2007-CA–000489-MR, 2008 Ky. App.
LEXIS 177 (Ky. Ct. App. June 6, 2008). We therefore conclude that, at this stage of the litigation,
the plaintiffs’ claims of violation of customary international law of human rights, negligence, and
breach of fiduciary duty should not be dismissed for “arising out of . . . misrepresentation [or]
deceit.” See 28 U.S.C. § 1605(a)(5)(B). We do however dismiss the last two claims advanced by
plaintiffs in their complaint (Class I Claims VI and VII, Class II Claims V and VI) as they do arise
out of misrepresentation or deceit.15
Nos. 07-5078/5163 O’Bryan, et al. v. Holy See Page 20
to the Holy See’s Motion to Dismiss at 6 n.9 (stating that “the complaint alleges claims for deceit . . . and
misrepresentation . . . . Those latter causes of action were expressly brought against the Defendant only in its capacity
as an unincorporated association and head of an international religious organization. In light of the [district] Court’s
previous ruling that such capacity does not apply here, those claims are no longer at issue).
In conclusion, we also note that we believe the foregoing analysis to be consistent with the
analysis of the district court in O’Bryan II.
For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the district court’s partial grant of defendant’s motion
to dismiss.