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Boniface v. Viliena

United States District Court, D. Massachusetts

September 30, 2019




         David Boniface, Nissandère Martyr, [1] and Juders Ysemé (together, “Plaintiffs”), residents of Les Irois, Haiti, allege that Jean Morose Viliena (“Defendant”), the former mayor of Les Irois, committed human rights abuses in violation of the Alien Tort Statute (“ATS”), 28 U.S.C. § 1350, and the Torture Victim Protection Act (“TVPA”), Pub. L. No. 102-256, 106 Stat. 73 (1992), 28 U.S.C. § 1350 (codified at note). [ECF No. 1 (“Complaint” or “Compl.”)]. On August 31, 2018, the Court granted in part and denied in part Defendant's motion to dismiss. [ECF No. 56]. Now before the Court is Defendant's motion for reconsideration of the Court's motion to dismiss order, or, in the alternative, a motion for certification of an interlocutory appeal. [ECF Nos. 59, 66]. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion for reconsideration [ECF No. 66] is DENIED, and Defendant's motion for the alternative relief of certification of an interlocutory appeal [ECF No. 59] is GRANTED.

         I. BACKGROUND

         A. August 31, 2018 Motion to Dismiss Order

         The Court presumes familiarity with the underlying facts alleged in the Complaint that were summarized in the Court's memorandum and order granting in part and denying in part Defendant's motion to dismiss (“Motion to Dismiss Order”). See Boniface v. Viliena, 338 F.Supp.3d 50, 56 (D. Mass. 2018). Below, the Court summarizes the portions of the Motion to Dismiss Order that are relevant to Defendant's request for reconsideration.

         The Motion to Dismiss Order began by addressing Defendant's argument that the Court lacked jurisdiction over Counts I-IV under the ATS because the relevant conduct occurred in Haiti. Id. at 60. The ATS states that “district courts shall have original jurisdiction of any civil action by an alien for a tort only, committed in violation of the law of nations or a treaty of the United States.” 28 U.S.C. § 1350. After clarifying that Defendant's argument applied only to Count IV because Counts I-III asserted claims under the TVPA, the Court concluded that it lacked jurisdiction over Count IV under the ATS. See id. at 60-63.

         The Court began its analysis of the ATS claim with Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., 569 U.S. 108 (2013), which “addressed the question of whether a claim brought pursuant to the ATS ‘may reach conduct occurring in the territory of a foreign sovereign.'” Boniface, 338 F.Supp.3d at 60 (quoting Kiobel, 569 U.S. at 115). In Kiobel, the Supreme Court observed that the “presumption against extraterritorial application”-which is a canon of statutory interpretation that provides that “when a statute gives no clear indication of an extraterritorial application, it has none”-“constrain[s] courts considering causes of action that may be brought under the ATS.” Kiobel, 569 U.S. at 115-16 (internal quotation marks and citations omitted). Applying this construction, the Supreme Court in Kiobel held that the plaintiffs' claims were barred by the ATS because “all of the relevant conduct took place outside the United States.” Id. at 124. In so holding, however, the Supreme Court also recognized that claims could be actionable under the ATS so long as they “touch[ed] and concern[ed] the territory of the United States . . . with sufficient force to displace the presumption against extraterritorial application.” Id. at 124-25.

         The Court then turned to Kiobel's progeny to flesh out the boundaries of the “touch and concern” standard while noting that the inquiry is “naturally fact-dependent.” Boniface, 338 F.Supp.3d at 61-62. Next, the Court summarized analogous cases from this district. See id. at 61- 62 (first citing Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively, 960 F.Supp.2d 304 (D. Mass. 2013) and then citing Sexual Minorities Uganda v. Lively, 254 F.Supp.3d 262 (D. Mass. 2017) (“Lively II”), aff'd in part, appeal dismissed in part, 899 F.3d 24 (1st Cir. 2018)). Finally, the Court examined the Complaint and found that the three major incidents alleged in the Complaint occurred before Defendant fled to the United States and therefore did not “touch and concern” the United States sufficiently to confer jurisdiction under the ATS. Id. at 62. Removing these allegations,

the only remaining allegations indicating that the claims “touch and concern” the United States are that, after he fled to the United States in 2009, Defendant continued to hold office as the mayor of Les Irois, continued to exercise control over the KOREGA militia, and that from the United States, he coordinated his return to Les Irois and the campaign of persecution against his enemies.

Id. at 63. Analogizing to Lively II, the Court concluded that these facts indicate that Defendant's involvement from the United Stated was “limited” and held that “the Complaint does not demonstrate that the Plaintiffs' ATS claims have a sufficient connection to the United States.” Id. The Court dismissed Count IV and proceeded to assess whether it had jurisdiction over Counts I-III under the TVPA.

         The Court recognized that “the TVPA creates a cause of action, but unlike the ATS, it does not provide for federal jurisdiction.” Id. (citing Kadic v. Karadzic, 70 F.3d 232, 246 (2d Cir. 1995)). The Court summarized that federal jurisdiction over TVPA claims “is conferred by both the ATS and general federal question jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1331, but many courts have determined that section 1331 is sufficient in and of itself to establish federal jurisdiction over TVPA claims.” Id. (first citing Doe v. Drummond Co., 782 F.3d 576, 601 (11th Cir. 2015), then citing Haim v. Neeman, No. 12-cv-00351, 2012 WL 12905235, at *3 (D.N.J. Aug. 29, 2012), then citing Doe v. Saravia, 348 F.Supp.2d 1112, 1118 n.2 (E.D. Cal. 2004), and then citing Xuncax v. Gramajo, 886 F.Supp. 162, 178 (D. Mass. 1995)). The Court appended a footnote to the end of this sentence that read:

Other courts have suggested that the question of “[w]hether subject matter jurisdiction for a claim asserted under the TVPA must be conferred on this Court through the [ATS] or can be based solely on 28 U.S.C. § 1331” is a “thorny issue” that has not been resolved. Defendant has not made any argument as to why section 1331 is insufficient, however, nor has Defendant cited cases explaining why the Court would not have jurisdiction under section 1331. As subject matter jurisdiction is an issue that can be raised at any time . . . Defendant may renew his motion for dismissal on this basis with a fully-developed argument if he believes that section 1331 is not sufficient to confer jurisdiction over the TVPA claims.

Id. at 63 n.2 (citations omitted). The Court concluded that it could exercise jurisdiction over the TVPA claims through section 1331. Id. at 63-64.

         After concluding that it possessed jurisdiction over the TVPA claims, the Court rejected Defendant's argument that the concerns about extraterritorial jurisdiction expressed by the Supreme Court in Kiobel “should apply equally to claims brought pursuant to the TVPA.” Id. at 64. The Court observed that “[o]ther courts have rejected this argument, and Defendant cites no legal authority that directly supports this proposition.” Id. (first citing Drummond, 782 F.3d at 601-02 and then citing Chowdhury v. Worldtel Bangl. Holding, Ltd., 746 F.3d 42, 50-51 (2d Cir. 2014)).

         B. Procedural History

         On September 25, 2018, following entry of the Motion to Dismiss Order, Defendant filed a motion for certification of interlocutory appeal. [ECF No. 59]. On September 26, 2018, the Court issued an electronic order advising the parties that it deemed Defendant's filing to be a motion for reconsideration or, in the alternative, a motion for certification of an interlocutory appeal, and permitted Defendant to file a supporting memorandum. [ECF No. 60]. On November 2, 2018, Defendant filed a motion for reconsideration and supporting memorandum. [ECF Nos. 66-67]. On November 21, 2018, Plaintiffs opposed reconsideration and certification of an interlocutory appeal. [ECF No. 70].

         II. MOTION FOR ...

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