486 U.S. 517 (1988), 87-336, Van Cauwenberghe v. Bard

Docket Nº:No. 87-336
Citation:486 U.S. 517, 108 S.Ct. 1945, 100 L.Ed.2d 517, 56 U.S.L.W. 4545
Party Name:Van Cauwenberghe v. Bard
Case Date:June 13, 1988
Court:United States Supreme Court
 
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Page 517

486 U.S. 517 (1988)

108 S.Ct. 1945, 100 L.Ed.2d 517, 56 U.S.L.W. 4545

Van Cauwenberghe

v.

Bard

No. 87-336

United States Supreme Court

June 13, 1988

Argued March 21, 1988

CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR

THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Syllabus

The courts of appeals have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 of appeals "from all final decisions of the district courts." Under Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corp., 337 U.S. 541, and Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U.S. 463, a "collateral order" which does not actually end the district court litigation is nevertheless considered to be final and immediately appealable under § 1291 if, inter alia, it resolves an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action and is effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment. Petitioner, a resident of Belgium, was indicted in the Central District of California for fraudulently inducing respondent to lend money to a California real estate partnership engaged in renovating a Kansas City townhouse complex. While on a trip to Switzerland, petitioner was arrested under the applicable extradition treaty and extradited to Los Angeles. One week before his criminal trial commenced, respondent filed a civil suit against petitioner in the same District, asserting various claims arising out of the defaulted loan. About two weeks after his sentencing following his conviction on the [108 S.Ct. 1947] criminal charges, petitioner was served with the civil summons and complaint. The District Court summarily denied petitioner's motions to dismiss, which were based upon the argument that petitioner was immune from civil process because his presence in the United States resulted from extradition, and upon forum non conveniens grounds. The Court of Appeals dismissed petitioner's appeal for lack of jurisdiction, citing Cohen, supra, and Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511.

Held: Neither an order denying a motion to dismiss on the ground that an extradited person is immune from civil process, nor an order denying such a motion on forum non conveniens grounds, is a collateral order subject to immediate appeal as a final judgment under § 1291. Pp. 521-530.

(a) Assuming, without deciding, that the "principle of specialty," see United States v. Rauscher, 119 U.S. 407, immunizes petitioner from civil service of process while his presence in this country is compelled by extradition, petitioner's claim is nevertheless effectively reviewable on appeal from final judgment, and thus is not immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine. Unlike the qualified immunity claim

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considered in Mitchell, supra, the "essence" of petitioner's claim of immunity under the principle of specialty is not a right not to stand trial, which would be irretrievably lost absent an immediate appeal. The principle of specialty operates to ensure that the receiving state does not abuse the extraditing state's extradition processes, and the conduct of a civil trial does not significantly implicate the reviewing state's obligation in that regard, since the state does not bring its coercive power to bear in such circumstances, but simply provides a forum for the resolution of a private dispute. Moreover, the defense of a civil suit does not significantly restrict a defendant's liberty, since he cannot be subjected to pretrial detention or required to post bail, and is not even compelled to be present at trial. Furthermore, a right not to stand trial is not entailed in the mere assertion that the district court lacks personal jurisdiction because of immunity from service of process. The right involved in this challenge must be characterized as the right not to be subject to a binding judgment, which may be effectively vindicated following final judgment. Pp. 522-527.

(b) The order denying the motion to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds does not fall within the collateral order doctrine, since the convenience-of-the-forum question is not completely separate from the merits of the action. Although the determination of that question may not require significant inquiry into the facts and legal issues in some cases, in the main, a district court ruling on such a motion will generally become entangled in the merits of the case in assessing such questions as the relative ease of access to the sources of proof, the availability of witnesses, and the actual locus of the alleged culpable conduct. Thus, such determinations are unsuited for immediate appeal as of right under § 1291. This conclusion is fortified by the availability of interlocutory review under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) offorum non conveniens determinations in appropriate cases. Pp. 527-530.

Affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

MARSHALL, J., lead opinion

JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.

This case requires us to determine whether two types of orders by a district court are immediately appealable under

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28 U.S.C. § 1291: first, an order denying a motion to [108 S.Ct. 1948] dismiss based on an extradited person's claim that he is immune from civil service of process; and second, dismiss on the ground offorum non conveniens.

I

This case arises from a dispute over a loan. Petitioner, a real estate broker in Brussels, encouraged respondent, also a Brussels resident, to meet with one Alan Blair in the United States to discuss a real estate investment. Blair is a resident of Los Angeles. Following a business trip to Atlanta, respondent traveled to Los Angeles, where he met petitioner, Blair, and others, to talk about the investment. Blair described a real estate partnership called Three B Investment Associates, which was renovating a townhouse complex outside Kansas City known as Concorde Bridge Townhouses. At petitioner's urging, respondent agreed to lend the partnership $1 million for three years at 20% per annum interest, secured by a mortgage on the Concorde Bridge complex. At the time, the partnership did not have title to the Concorde Bridge complex, but it held a contract to purchase the complex and had made a substantial deposit.

The partnership, after making some scheduled payments, eventually defaulted on its promissory note to respondent. The mortgage proved worthless because the partnership had not acquired title to the Concorde Bridge complex. Respondent retained American counsel, claiming that he had been misled into believing that the partnership held title to the Concorde Bridge Townhouses at the time of the loan. Soon thereafter, United States prosecutors became involved in the controversy. In October 1984, petitioner, Blair, and another American were indicted in the Central District of California on charges of wire fraud and causing the interstate transportation of a victim of fraud. The indictment charged that the three defendants had fraudulently induced respondent to lend them $1 million by falsely representing that they

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owned the Concorde Bridge complex through the real estate partnership.

While on a trip to Geneva, petitioner was arrested pursuant to a request from the United States Department of Justice under the applicable extradition treaty with Switzerland. See Treaty between the United States and Switzerland for the Extradition of Criminals, May 14, 1900, 31 Stat.1928, T.S. No. 354 (1900). Petitioner was extradited and delivered to Los Angeles by United States Marshals after legal proceedings in Swiss courts. Following a jury trial, petitioner was found guilty on one count of wire fraud and one count of causing the interstate transportation of a victim of fraud. On January 22, 1986, petitioner was sentenced to a prison term of one year and one day, which was satisfied by the time he already had spent in pretrial confinement. The trial court also ordered petitioner to pay respondent restitution of $34,501.26 and placed him on probation. Petitioner was ordered not to leave the United States until the restitution order was satisfied.1 The conviction was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. United States v. Van Cauwenberghe, 827 F.2d 424 (CA9 1987), cert. denied, 484 U.S. 1042 (1988).

On November 12, 1985, one week before petitioner's criminal trial commenced, respondent filed a civil suit against petitioner, Blair, and others in the District Court for the Central District of California. The complaint asserted a civil Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) claim, a common law claim of fraud, and other pendent state law claims arising out of the defaulted loan. On February 5, 1986, about two weeks after his sentencing, petitioner was served with the summons and complaint as he was arriving at the office of his probation officer to keep a scheduled appointment. Petitioner moved to dismiss the suit on two separate grounds. First, he argued that, because his [108 S.Ct. 1949] presence in the

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United States was a result of extradition, he was immune from civil process. Second, petitioner argued that the complaint should be dismissed on the ground of forum non conveniens. The District Court summarily denied both motions. App. 221, Biard v. Blair, No. CV 85-7378 JSL (Nov. 17, 1986). The Court of Appeals dismissed petitioner's appeal for lack of jurisdiction in a one-line order, citing this Court's decisions in Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corp., 337 U.S. 541 (1949), and Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U.S. 511 (1985). App. 234, No. 86-6735 (CA9, July 7, 1987).2 We granted certiorari, 484 U.S. 942 (1987), and we now affirm.

II

The courts of appeals have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 of appeals "from all final decisions of the district courts . . . except where a direct review may be had in the Supreme Court." A party generally may not take an appeal under § 1291 until there has been a decision by the District Court that "ends the litigation on the merits and leaves nothing for the court to do...

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