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Jerez v. Republic of Cuba

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

December 30, 2014

NILO JEREZ, APPELLANT
v.
REPUBLIC OF CUBA, ET AL., APPELLEES

Argued: November 10, 2014.

Page 420

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (No. 1:09-mc-00466).

Richard J. Oparil argued the cause and filed the briefs for appellant.

Michael R. Krinsky argued the cause for appellees. With him on the brief was David B. Goldstein.

Before: BROWN, Circuit Judge, and WILLIAMS and GINSBURG, Senior Circuit Judges. OPINION filed by Senior Circuit Judge WILLIAMS.

OPINION

Page 421

Williams, Senior Circuit Judge:

Nilo Jerez filed suit in Florida state court against the Republic of Cuba and various codefendants, including Fidel Castro and the " Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces," alleging that he had suffered horrifying torture at their hands and continued to suffer the consequences. Having obtained a default judgment in state court, Jerez now seeks to execute that judgment on patents and trademarks held or managed by the appellees in this action, who are allegedly agents and instrumentalities of Cuba. Because the Florida state court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to grant the default judgment, we affirm the district court's denial of Jerez's request.

* * *

In the 1960s and 1970s, while incarcerated in Cuba, Nilo Jerez allegedly endured unlawful incarceration and torture committed by the Cuban government and its codefendants. The torture allegedly included such features as having electricity run through his body causing loss of bodily functions and consciousness and being forced to live surrounded by his own urine and feces. Readers familiar with Against All Hope, Armando Valladares's account of his incarceration by the same parties, will find much of Jerez's treatment similar to that inflicted on Valladares and depicted by him as having been extended to many of his fellow prisoners. In Jerez's case, he alleges, the defendants also purposefully injected him with the hepatitis C virus and subjected him to other conditions also causing hepatitis C, which has in turn caused him ongoing cirrhosis of the liver.

In 2005, years after arriving in the United States, Jerez sued the defendants for compensatory and punitive damages in Florida state court (specifically the Eleventh Judicial Circuit in and for Miami-Dade County, Florida). After the defendants failed to appear, the court found them liable under the Torture Victim Protection Act and granted Jerez a default judgment for $200 million. Although Jerez's complaint alluded to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (" FSIA" ), he claimed jurisdiction under the Alien Tort Claim Act, and the court found jurisdiction on that basis.

To enforce the default judgment, Jerez sued in the United States district court for the Southern District of Florida. The defendants again defaulted. The court granted full faith and credit to the Florida state court judgment and granted Jerez judgment for $200 million plus interest. The Florida district court made no mention of the basis for its jurisdiction.

Jerez registered the Florida district court's default judgment in the United States district court for the District of Columbia. He also applied for various writs of attachment on certain patents and trademark registrations held by alleged agencies and instrumentalities of Cuba; the latter, together with intervenor Camara de Comercio, manager of a trademark on Cuban cigars, are collectively the appellees ...


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