Justia U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in International Trade
United States v. Lee
U.S. Customs Officer Parra spent December 8, 2010 “cracking open containers” at a warehouse near the Los Angeles seaport. Opening one from South Korea to inspect its freight, Parra found a fully assembled, five-foot-tall industrial turbo blower. A placard riveted to the side read, “Assembled in USA.” The discovery led to a federal investigation that traced back to Lee. Prosecutors charged Lee with executing a scheme to defraud local governments by falsely representing that his company manufactured its turbo blowers in the U.S. The Seventh Circuit affirmed his wire fraud convictions, reasoning that Lee’s misrepresentations were material under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, 123 Stat. 115 (2009), which includes a “Buy American” provision. The evidence adequately supports Lee’s participation in a scheme to defraud and his intent to do so. Lee used interstate wires as a part of that scheme. The indictment afforded Lee ample notice of the case the government presented at trial and included specific details of the crimes alleged to avoid double jeopardy risk; no impermissible constructive amendment or variance occurred. The court also upheld Lee’s smuggling convictions under 18 U.S.C. 545. The mislabeling served an important function in Lee’s broader scheme to deceive customers about the origin of the turbo blowers. View "United States v. Lee" on Justia Law
Armada (Singapore) PTE Ltd. v. Amcol International Corp.
Plaintiff, a Singaporean shipping company, entered into shipping contracts with an Indian mining company. The Indian company breached those contracts. Plaintiff believes that American businesses that were the largest stockholders in the Indian company engaged in racketeering activity to divest the Indian company of assets to thwart its attempts to recover damages for the breach. Plaintiff filed suit under the Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), 18 U.S.C. 1964(c). While the case was pending, the Supreme Court decided RJR Nabisco v. European Community, holding that “[a] private RICO plaintiff … must allege and prove a domestic injury to its business or property.” The district court granted the American defendants judgment on the RICO claims. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Plaintiff’s claimed injury—harm to its ability to collect on its judgment and other claims—was economic; economic injuries are felt at a corporation’s principal place of business, and Plaintiff’s principal place of business is in Singapore. The court noted that the district court allowed a maritime fraudulent transfer claim to go forward. View "Armada (Singapore) PTE Ltd. v. Amcol International Corp." on Justia Law
Nalco Co. v. Chen
NMEPT, a joint venture, was formed to sell environmental equipment in China. Nalco owned 55% of the venture, Chen 40%, and a third party 5%. When NMEPT encountered business problems, Nalco paid its creditor and sued Chen for his 40% share of the outlay. The district court awarded Nalco more than $2 million, rejecting Chen's counterclaim that Nalco’s subsidiary, NMI, had caused the joint venture to borrow $300,000 without Chen's approval, even though the agreement required all investors’ consent for borrowing. Chen also claimed that the creditor petitioned the joint venture into bankruptcy under Chinese law, on behalf of NMI, in an effort to avoid a clause requiring the investors’ unanimous consent for bankruptcy proceedings. Nalco wanted to wind up the unprofitable venture, but Chen preferred to keep it alive (if dormant) to protect its intellectual property. Chen did not appeal, but filed a new suit in China, against Mobotec. The Seventh Circuit affirmed an injunction, prohibiting Chen from pursuing the Chinese litigation. Rejecting an argument that Mobotec was not a party to and could not benefit from the Illinois judgment, the court stated: “That would be a questionable proposition even if Mobotec were a distinct entity, for federal courts no longer require mutuality in civil litigation.” The district court found that NMI and Mobotec are the same entity. View "Nalco Co. v. Chen" on Justia Law
United States v. Leija-Sanchez
Four persons were charged with arranging the murder of “Montes” in Mexico to reduce competition against a Chicago-based criminal organization that created bogus immigration documents. The Seventh Circuit reversed dismissal on grounds that the indictment proposed the extraterritorial application of U.S. law. On remand, one defendant pleaded guilty. Three were convicted under 18 U.S.C. 1959, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO); 18 U.S.C. 956(a)(1), which forbids any person “within the jurisdiction of the United States” from conspiring to commit a murder abroad; and conspiring to produce false identification documents, 18 U.S.C. 371. On appeal, defendants cited the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision, Morrison v. National Australia Bank, which reiterated the presumption against extraterritorial application of civil statutes. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, noting that its earlier decision recognized that presumption and thought it not controlling, because of the differences between criminal and civil law, and because the murder in Mexico was arranged and paid for from the U.S., and was committed with the goal of protecting a criminal organization that conducted business in the U.S., to defraud U.S. officials and employers. View "United States v. Leija-Sanchez" on Justia Law
VLM Food Trading Int’l, Inc. v. Ill. Trading Co.
VLM, a Montreal-based supplier, sold frozen potatoes to IT in Illinois. After nine successful transactions, IT encountered financial difficulty and failed to pay for the next nine shipments. Invoices sent after delivery included a provision purporting to make IT liable for collection-related attorney’s fees if it breached the contracts. VLM sued; the deadline for an answer passed. The court entered a default. On defendants' motion, the court vacated the default as to IT’s president only. All three defendants then filed answers, contesting liability for attorney’s fees. The judge applied the Illinois Uniform Commercial Code and found that the fee provision had been incorporated into the contract. The Seventh Circuit reversed, holding that the U.N. Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods applied. On remand, the judge applied the Convention and held that the fee provision was not part of the contracts and that IT could benefit from this ruling, despite the prior entry of default. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. IT never expressly assented to the attorney’s fees provision in VLM’s trailing invoices, so under the Convention that term did not become a part of the contracts. VLM waived its right to rely on the default by failing to raise the issue until its reply brief on remand. View "VLM Food Trading Int'l, Inc. v. Ill. Trading Co." on Justia Law
United States v. Dobek
Dobek was an engineer in charge of providing parts for F-16 fighter planes owned by the Venezuelan Air Force. The U.S. State Department announced that munitions, including parts for military aircraft, could no longer be exported to Venezuela without an export license, and revoked existing licenses. Dobek created firms to carry on business with Venezuela. The Venezuelan Air Force told Dobek that it needed canopy seals for its F-16s. Suspecting that Dobek was selling canopy seals to Venezuela, FBI agents executed a warrant at Dobek’s home, where they found a purchase order for the seals, with no purchaser named. Dobek had certified that he understood that the “products … to be provided are controlled by the … International Traffic in Arms Regulations.” He told a friend that he was looking for a box to ship “cockpit seals.” FedEx shipping records revealed that Dobek had shipped a box, labeled as “base molding,” to Venezuela after that discussion. This pattern of purchase and shipment was repeated a year later. Dobek was convicted of exporting munitions illegally, 22 U.S.C. 2778(b)(2), and conspiracy, 18 U.S.C. 371. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the admissibility of an alleged co-conspirator’s emails, the sufficiency of the evidence, and the validity of the jury instruction on willfulness, stating that evidence of willfulness was overwhelming. View "United States v. Dobek" on Justia Law
Druckzentrum Harry Jung GmbH v. Motorola Mobility LLC
In 2008 Motorola agreed to make a good-faith effort to purchase two percent of its cell-phone user-manual needs from Druckzentrum, a printer based in Germany. After a year, Motorola’s sales contracted sharply. Motorola consolidated its cell-phone manufacturing and distribution operations in China, buying all related print products there. Motorola notified Druckzentrum. The companies continued to do business for a few months. After losing Motorola’s business Druckzentrum entered bankruptcy and sued Motorola, alleging breach of contract and fraud in the inducement. Druckzentrum claimed that the contract gave it an exclusive right to all of Motorola’s user-manual printing business for cell phones sold in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia during the contract period. The district judge entered summary judgment for Motorola. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. The written contract contained no promise of an exclusive right and was fully integrated, so Druckzentrum cannot use parol evidence of prior understandings. Although Motorola promised to make a good-faith effort, the contract listed reasons Motorola might justifiably miss the target, including business downturns. There was no evidence of bad faith. The evidence was insufficient to create a jury issue on the claim that Motorola fraudulently induced Druckzentrum to enter into or continue the contract. View "Druckzentrum Harry Jung GmbH v. Motorola Mobility LLC" on Justia Law
Kashamu v. Norgle
In 1998 Kashamu, a dual citizen of Nigeria and Benin, was charged as the leader of a conspiracy to import and distribute heroin. Kashamu never entered the U.S. His location was unknown. The government did not ask that he be tried in absentia. Eleven other defendants pleaded guilty; one was convicted. Months later, Kashamu was arrested in England. There were two unsuccessful extradition proceedings. After the 2003 ruling, Kashamu left England. Six years later, in Chicago district court, he moved to dismiss the indictment based on the English judge's findings, concerning possible confusion between Kashamu and his brother. The Seventh Circuit rejected his arguments. Kashamu remains in Nigeria, a businessman and a ruling party politician. Although there is an extradition treaty, the government has made no effort to extradite him. In 2014 Kashamu sought to dismiss on the grounds that the court has no personal jurisdiction because he has never been in the U.S. and that the Sixth Amendment speedy-trial clause bars prosecution. The Seventh Circuit again disagreed. Even if Kashamu has constitutional rights, they are not violated. The court has no current jurisdiction, but should he come to the U.S., he can be tried. Denial of a motion to dismiss on speedy-trial grounds is a nonappealable interlocutory order; until proceedings are complete, the causes and duration of the delay, the defendant’s responsibility for it, and the harm from the delay, cannot be determined. At any time “he had only to show up” to obtain resolution of his guilt or innocence. View "Kashamu v. Norgle" on Justia Law
Fellowes Inc. v. Changzhou Xinrui Fellowes Office Equip. Co.
Fellowes filed a breach-of-contract suit against Changzou Fellowes, a business established in China, under the international diversity jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. 1332(a)(2). Without discussing subject-matter jurisdiction, the district court entered a preliminary injunction in favor of Fellowes, despite the court’s assumption that Changzhou Fellowes had not been served with process. The Seventh Circuit vacated, reasoning that diversity jurisdiction is proper only if Changzhou Fellowes has its own citizenship, independent of its investors or members. Deciding whether a business enterprise based in a foreign nation should be treated as a corporation for the purpose of section 1332 can be difficult. Given the parties’ agreement that Changzhou Fellowes is closer to a limited liability company than to any other business structure in the U.S., it does not have its own citizenship and it does have the Illinois citizenship of its member Hong Kong Fellowes, which prevents litigation under the diversity jurisdiction. View "Fellowes Inc. v. Changzhou Xinrui Fellowes Office Equip. Co." on Justia Law
BouMatic LLC v. Idento Operations BV
Idento makes robotic milking machines in the Netherlands. BouMatic, LLC, based in Wisconsin, entered into an agreement for purchasing and reselling those machines in Belgium. BouMatic claims that Idento breached the agreement by selling direct to at least one of BouMatic’s Belgian customers and by failing to provide parts and warranty service. The district court dismissed, ruling that commercial transactions in the European Union do not expose Idento to litigation in Wisconsin even though BouMatic has its headquarters there, the parties exchanged drafts between Wisconsin and the Netherlands, and Idento shipped one machine to Wisconsin. After exploring the nature of the business entities, the Seventh Circuit vacated for consideration of personal jurisdiction in light of the contract language. Litigants cannot confer subject matter jurisdiction by agreement or omission, but personal jurisdiction is a personal right that a litigant may waive or forfeit. View "BouMatic LLC v. Idento Operations BV" on Justia Law