6th Circuit Affirms Dismissal For Lack Of Jurisdiction Under Alien Tort Claims Act

Taveras v. Taveraz, __ F.3d __ (6th Cir. 2007), 2007 WL 494928 (C.A.6 (Ohio)

Issue and Holding:
Whether the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over the parental child abduction action pursuant to the Alien Tort Statute. The Court held no, the district court did not have jurisdiction.


Both parties are citizens of the Dominican Republic. During their marriage, two children were born. In 2003 the couple divorced in the Dominican Republic, and Ms. Taveraz was granted full guardianship of the children. In August 2004 Ms. Taveraz took the children under a visitor’s visa to the United States, allegedly for a two week vacation. In September 2004, Ms. Taveraz contacted Mr. Taveras and told him that she was never returning to the Dominican Republic. Mr. Taveras then discovered her and the children were living in Ohio.
Mr. Taveras filed a criminal complaint and a civil action in the Dominican Republic. In July 2005 the Santo Domingo family court ordered the return of Ms. Taveraz and the children to the Dominican Republic to appear for a hearing. However, they never returned.
In September 2005 Mr. Taveras filed an action against Ms. Taveraz in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio alleging parental child abduction pursuant to the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the US Constitution, the Hague Convention of 1980, and the International Child Abduction Remedies Act. Ms. Taveraz moved to dismiss the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Mr. Taveras then amended his complaint to include a cause of action under the Alien Tort Statute (hereinafter ATS). The district court granted the motion to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Mr. Taveras appealed only the district court’s denial of subject matter jurisdiction under ATS.


The United States Supreme Court held in Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, 542 U.S. 692 (2004), that at the time ATS was enacted only three actions were generally recognized as infractions of the law of nations: piracy, offenses against ambassadors, and violations of safe conducts. The Court also held that other causes of action based upon present day law of nations may be cognizable under the ATS if the claim both “rest[s] on a norm of international character accepted by the civilized world and [is] defined with a specificity comparable to the features of the [aforementioned] 18th-century paradigms[.]” Id. at 725.
In the instant case, the Court rejected Mr. Taveras’ argument that Ms. Taveraz’s actions violated the terms for safe conducts under the law of nations. The Court noted that the purpose of the doctrine of safe conducts was to protect the safety and property of the journeying alien bearing the safe conduct privilege. Therefore, there was no violation of the terms for safe conducts under the law of nations, since there was no infraction of the safe passages of Ms. Taveraz or the children to, within, or out of the United States and there was no injury to their person or property. The Court also found, even assuming Ms. Taveraz’s entry into the United States constituted a violation of the law of nations, that there was an insufficient nexus between this violation and the alleged tort committed against Mr. Taveras. Mr. Taveras’ reliance on Adra v. Clift, 195 F.Supp. 857 (D.Md. 1961) was misplaced.
The Court also rejected Mr. Taveras’ argument that an international consensus against parental child abduction is established through the Hague Convention of 1980, the Hague Convention of 1996, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Court found that Mr. Taveras failed to produce sufficient evidence that there is an international consensus that the sort of parental child abduction alleged in the complaint is a wrong so generally and universally recognized that it becomes a violation of the law of nations pursuant to ATS.
Finally, the Court held that the district court did not have federal question jurisdiction over the complaint either.
Accordingly, the Court affirmed the lower court’s dismissal of the action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction.