Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Republic of Marshall Islands v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

July 31, 2017

Republic of the Marshall Islands, a non-nuclear-weapon State party to the Treaty on the Non Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Plaintiff-Appellant,
v.
United States of America; Donald J. Trump, The President of the United States of America; Department of Defense; James Mattis, Secretary, Department of Defense; Department of Energy; Rick Perry, Secretary, Department of Energy; National Nuclear Security Administration, Defendants-Appellees.

          Argued and Submitted March 15, 2017 San Francisco, California

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California No. 4:14-cv-01885-JSW, Jeffrey S. White, District Judge, Presiding

          Laurie B. Ashton (argued) and Alison Chase, Keller Rohrback LLP, Phoenix, Arizona; Juli E. Farris and Lynn Lincoln Sarko, Keller Rohrback LLP, Seattle, Washington; for Plaintiff-Appellant.

          Sushma Soni (argued) and Douglas N. Letter, Appellate Staff, Civil Division, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for Defendants-Appellees.

          Scott Yundt, Livermore, California, as and for Amicus Curiae Tri-Valley Communities Against a Radioactive Environment.

          Henry M. Willis, Schwartz Steinsapir Dohrmann & Sommers LLP, Los Angeles, California; Margot Nikitas, Staff Attorney; Joseph Cohen, General Counsel; United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; for Amici Curiae United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), International Commission for Labor Rights, and Labor and Employment Committee of the National Lawyers Guild.

          Janet Benshoof, New York, New York, as and for Amicus Curiae Global Justice Center.

          Randy Baker, Seattle, Washington; Anabel Dwyer, Elizabeth Shafer, and John Burroughs, Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy, New York, New York, for Amicus Curiae Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy.

          Daniel U.Smith, Smith & McGinty, San Francisco, California, for Amici Curiae Physicians for Social Responsibility, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, and Pax Christi International.

          Andrea R. St. Julian, San Diego, California, for Amici Curiae Hans M. Kristensen, Robert Alvarez, Dr. James E. Doyle, and Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

          Before: M. Margaret McKeown and Jay S. Bybee, Circuit Judges, and Susan Oki Mollway, [*] District Judge.

         SUMMARY [**]

         Marshall Islands / Treaties

         The panel affirmed the district court's dismissal of a suit brought by the Republic of the Marshall Islands seeking a declaration that the United States was in breach of its treaty obligations under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and asking the court to order that the United States engage in good-faith negotiations.

         The panel held that Article VI was non-self-executing. The panel further held that because non-self-executing treaty provisions were not judicially enforceable, claims seeking to enforce them were nonjusticiable.

         The panel held that the Marshall Islands' asserted injuries were not redressable because Article VI could not be enforced in federal court. The panel also found that the Marshall Islands' claims presented inextricable political questions that were nonjusticiable and must be dismissed.

          OPINION

          McKEOWN, Circuit Judge:

         Not all treaties are created equal in terms of enforceability. Although the Supremacy Clause guarantees that "all Treaties . . . shall be the supreme Law of the Land, " U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2, paradoxically not every treaty provision is enforceable in our domestic courts. Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (the "Treaty" or the "Non-Proliferation Treaty") is one such provision: it calls on each party to the Treaty "to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures" to end the nuclear arms race and accomplish nuclear disarmament.[1]

         Armed with Article VI, one of the treaty parties, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, filed suit, asking the federal court to declare the United States in breach of its treaty obligations and to order the United States to engage in good-faith negotiations. These claims are nonjusticiable- Article VI is not directly enforceable in federal court, the Marshall Islands' asserted injuries are not redressable, and the claims raise nonjusticiable political questions.

         At bottom, the suit is doomed because diplomatic negotiations among parties to this Treaty fall quintessentially within the realm of the executive, not the judiciary. Parleying a halt to the nuclear arms race and achieving nuclear disarmament involve decision-making delegated to the political branches. We affirm the district court's dismissal of the complaint. Asking the federal court to order the United States to negotiate in "good faith" on "effective measures" for nuclear disarmament puts the judiciary in the role of nanny to the executive. Under our system of separation of powers, the federal court cannot give the Marshall Islands the judicial relief it seeks.

         BACKGROUND

         The Non-Proliferation Treaty entered into force in 1970. After President Johnson signed and the Senate gave its consent, President Nixon ratified the Treaty for the United States. The Marshall Islands acceded to the Treaty in 1995. Over 180 states are now parties.

         To promote the Treaty's goal of nuclear disarmament, Article VI provides that "[e]ach of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control." Although the Treaty includes no mechanism to address alleged breaches, the United States acknowledges that the Treaty "is a legally binding instrument under international law" and that breach "may give rise to international legal remedies."

          In April 2014, the Marshall Islands sued the United States in federal district court, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and claiming that the United States breached Article VI by failing to pursue good-faith negotiations. The genesis for this action is what the Marshall Islands describes as "the grim legacy of the United States nuclear weapons program, " including the detonation of sixty-seven nuclear weapons in the Marshall Islands that resulted in "horrific and multi-generational consequences from nuclear proliferation."

         In Count 1, the Marshall Islands requested a declaration that Article VI imposes ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.