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Robert Carpenter v. Republic of Chile

June 22, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Seybert, District Judge:


On June 28, 2010, the Second Circuit affirmed in part and vacated in part this Court's dismissal of plaintiff Robert Carpenter's claims against the Republic of Chile, British Airways, and several Chilean government officials (the "Individual Defendants"). See Carpenter v. Republic of Chile, 610 F.3d 776 (2d Cir. 2010). The Second Circuit largely upheld this Court's decision. However, it vacated and remanded the portion of this opinion dismissing Mr. Carpenter's claims against the Individual Defendants, in light of Samantar v. Yousuf, __ U.S. __, 130 S. Ct. 2278, 176 L. Ed. 2d. 1047 (2010). Id. at 780. Specifically, the Second Circuit held that, given Samantar (issued while this case was on appeal), this Court erred in finding that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act ("FSIA") shields the Individual Defendants from liability. Id. ("vacat[ing] the judgment of the District Court insofar as it dismissed Carpenter's complaint against the government officials of Chile on the grounds that FSIA provided immunity.") The Second Circuit instructed this Court to consider, in the first instance, whether the federal common law of foreign sovereign immunity protects the Individual Defendants.

Following remand, Defendants filed a supplemental motion to dismiss. This supplemental motion seeks dismissal of the claims against the Individual Defendants on both personal jurisdiction and 12(b)(6) grounds. Defendants declined to brief the issues raised by the Second Circuit's mandate.

After reviewing the parties' papers, the Court believes that the personal jurisdiction issues are straightforward. Conversely, the Second Circuit's mandate raises complicated subject matter jurisdiction issues. So the Court elects to consider Defendants' supplemental motion to dismiss first. See Ruhrgas AG v. Marathon Oil Co., 526 U.S. 574, 578, 119 S. Ct. 1563, 143 L. Ed. 2d 760 (1999) (there is no "jurisdictional hierarchy" between personal and subject matter jurisdiction questions). Having done so, the Court GRANTS Defendants' supplemental motion to dismiss. Thus, it DISMISSES Mr. Carpenter's Complaint, WITH PREJUDICE, for lack of personal jurisdiction, without reaching the Second Circuit's mandate. Consequently, all other pending motions are DENIED AS MOOT.


This Court's original decision described this dispute's factual background in considerable detail, so the Court will not do so here. See Carpenter v. Republic of Chile, No. 07-CV-5290, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 123643, at *1--5 (E.D.N.Y. July 29, 2009); Compl. at 4.

In brief, Mr. Carpenter was a long-term Chilean resident. A business dispute led to the Chilean government arresting and filing criminal charges against him. In connection with this criminal case, Mr. Carpenter alleges that various Chilean officials violated Chilean law or otherwise mistreated him.

Mr. Carpenter focuses most of his energy on Defendant Blanca del Carmen Rojas Arancibia, the judge who oversaw his prosecution. According to Mr. Carpenter, Judge Rojas Arancibia violated his Chilean constitutional rights (e.g., rights to a court-appointed interpreter, an attorney, an opportunity to review his court file, etc.), precluded him from examining the witnesses against him, inexplicably refused to lift an "arriago" (restraining order) against him even after she found him not-guilty, and twice "arbitrar[ily] reinstated" the case against him after dismissing it.

Mr. Carpenter pleads few or no facts against the other Defendants. With respect to Defendant Carlos Bustos Vasquez,*fn1

Mr. Carpenter pleads only that he served as Judge Rojas Arancibia's court clerk. With respect to "the 'Minstero Visitador' of Tribunal No. 32,"*fn2 he pleads simply that he filed four complaints (presumably about his alleged mistreatment) that went unanswered. And with respect to the unnamed "Minister of Justice," he pleads nothing at all, beyond naming this person in the caption.

Mr. Carpenter predicates liability entirely on the "plainly governmental" conduct the Individual Defendants took in their capacities as Chilean government officials. Carpenter, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 123643 at *22. However, Mr. Carpenter claims to sue the Individual Defendants as individuals, and not in their official capacities. (Docket No. 45 at 11).

Accepting the Complaint's allegations as true, the Individual Defendants' conduct took place entirely within the Republic of Chile. And it affected only Mr. Carpenter, then a Chilean resident. Mr. Carpenter pleads no facts suggesting that the Individual Defendants' conduct had effects within the United States, or New York State. Nor, in his Complaint, does Mr. Carpenter allege that any of the Individual Defendants had even a single fleeting contact with the United States, much less New York State or the Eastern District of New York.

DISCUSSION I. Standard of Review

Where a party moves to dismiss an action for lack of personal jurisdiction pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), the plaintiff bears the burden of showing that the court has jurisdiction over the defendant. Metro. Life Ins. Co. v. Robertson-Ceco Corp., 84 F.3d 560, 566 (2d Cir. 1996). Prior to discovery, a plaintiff may survive a 12(b)(2) motion to dismiss by pleading "legally sufficient allegations of jurisdiction." Id. That is, where a court "relies on the pleadings and affidavits, and chooses not to conduct a full-blown evidentiary ...

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