731 F.2d 909 (D.C. Cir. 1984), 83-1280, Laker Airways Ltd. v. Sabena, Belgian World Airlines

Docket Nº:83-1280, 83-1281.
Citation:731 F.2d 909
Party Name:1984-1 Trade Cases 65,885 LAKER AIRWAYS LIMITED, a Foreign Corporation v. SABENA, BELGIAN WORLD AIRLINES, a Foreign Corporation KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines, a Foreign Corporation, Appellant. LAKER AIRWAYS LIMITED, a Foreign Corporation v. SABENA, BELGIAN WORLD AIRLINES, a Foreign Corporation, Appellant, KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines, a Foreign Corporatio
Case Date:March 06, 1984
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
 
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731 F.2d 909 (D.C. Cir. 1984)

1984-1 Trade Cases 65,885

LAKER AIRWAYS LIMITED, a Foreign Corporation

v.

SABENA, BELGIAN WORLD AIRLINES, a Foreign Corporation

KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines, a Foreign Corporation, Appellant.

LAKER AIRWAYS LIMITED, a Foreign Corporation

v.

SABENA, BELGIAN WORLD AIRLINES, a Foreign Corporation, Appellant,

KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines, a Foreign Corporation.

Nos. 83-1280, 83-1281.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

March 6, 1984

As Amended March 6 and 9, 1984.

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Appeals from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Civil Action No. 83-0416).

Peter J. Nickles, Washington, D.C., with whom Eugene D. Gulland and William P. Skinner, Washington, D.C., were on brief, for appellant Sabena in No. 83-1281.

Thomas J. Whalen, New York City, with whom Stephen J. Fearon and Lawrence Mentz, New York City, were on brief, for appellant KLM in No. 83-1280.

Carl W. Schwarz, Washington, D.C., with whom Robert M. Beckman and Wesley K. Caine, Washington, D.C., were on brief, for appellee in Nos. 83-1280 and 83-1281.

Lloyd N. Cutler, James S. Campbell, Gary D. Wilson, Andrew N. Vollmer, William R. Richardson, Jr., Terrence J. Leahy, Laurance A. Short, William Karas and David H. Coburn, Washington, D.C., were on brief, for amicus curiae, Deutche Lufthansa Atkiengesellschaft, et al., urging that the preliminary injunction be vacated in Nos. 83-1280 and 83-1281.

Before WILKEY and STARR, Circuit Judges, and MacKINNON, Senior Circuit Judge.

Opinion for the Court filed by Circuit Judge WILKEY.

Dissenting Opinion filed by Circuit Judge STARR.

OUTLINE OF OPINION FOR THE COURT

Page Intoduction ............................................... 914 I. BACKGROUND ........................................... 916 A. Laker's Antitrust Claims .......................... 916 B. Litigation History ................................ 917 C. Current Appeals in this Court ..................... 920 II. ANALYSIS ............................................. 921 A. Bases of Concurrent Prescriptive Jurisdiction: Territoriality and Nationality .................... 921 1. Overview ....................................... 921 2. United States Jurisdictional Base .............. 922 a. Territorial Contacts Justifying Application of United States Antitrust Law .............................. 923 b. Adequacy of United States Territorial Interests ................................... 925 3. British Jurisdictional Base .................... 926 4. Concurrent Jurisdiction ........................ 926 B. Propriety of the Antisuit Injunction .............. 926 1. Protection of Jurisdiction ..................... 927 2. Evasion of Important Public Policies ........... 931 3. Effect of the English Injunctions .............. 933 C. Paramount Nationality ............................. 934 D. International Comity .............................. 937 E. Judicial Reconciliation of Conflicting Assertions of Jurisdiction ................................... 945 1. Nature of the Conflict ......................... 945 2. Judicial Interest Balancing .................... 948 a. Defects in the Balancing Process ............ 948 b. Promotion of International Comity ........... 950 3. Political Compromise ........................... 953 III. CONCLUSION ........................................... 955 WILKEY, Circuit Judge:

We review today the limits of a federal court's power to conserve its adjudicatory

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authority over a case properly filed with the court when, instead of actively raising all defensive claims in the federal court, the named defendants initiate suits in foreign tribunals for the sole purpose of terminating the federal court's adjudication of the litigation. Three months after Laker Airways, Ltd. ("Laker") filed an antitrust action in United States District Court for the District of Columbia against several defendants, including domestic, British, and other foreign airlines, the foreign airlines filed suits in the High Court of Justice of the United Kingdom seeking an injunction forbidding Laker from prosecuting its American antitrust action against the foreign defendants. After the High Court of Justice entered interim injunctions against Laker, the Court of Appeal issued a permanent injunction ordering Laker to take action to dismiss its suit against the British airlines. In the meantime, Laker responded by requesting injunctive relief in the United States District Court, arguing that a restraining order was necessary to prevent the remaining American defendants and the additional foreign defendants Laker had named in a subsequent antitrust claim from duplicating the foreign defendants' successful request for an English injunction compelling Laker to dismiss its suit against the defendants.

If these defendants had been permitted to file foreign injunctive actions, the United States District Court would have been effectively stripped of control over the claims--based on United States law--which it was in the process of adjudicating. Faced with no alternative but acquiescence in the termination of this jurisdiction by a foreign court's order, United States District Judge Harold H. Greene granted Laker's motion for a preliminary injunction restraining the remaining defendants from taking part in the foreign action designed to prevent the district court from hearing Laker's antitrust claims.

Two of the defendants enjoined from taking part in the English proceeding, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines ("KLM") and Societe Anonyme Belge d'Exploitation de la Navigation Aerienne ("Sabena") now contend on appeal that the court abused its discretion. Their arguments are essentially two-fold: first, that the injunction tramples Britain's rights to regulate the access of its nationals to judicial remedies; second, that the injunction contravenes the principles of international comity which ordinarily compel deference to foreign judgments and which virtually always proscribe any interference with foreign judicial proceedings.

Our review of the limited available facts strongly suggests that both the United States and Great Britain share concurrent prescriptive jurisdiction over the transactions giving rise to Laker's claim. Ordinarily antisuit injunctions are not properly invoked to preempt parallel proceedings on the same in personam claim in foreign tribunals. However, KLM and Sabena do not qualify under this general rule because the foreign action they seek to join is interdictory and not parallel. It was instituted by the foreign defendants for the sole purpose of terminating the United States claim. The only conceivable benefit that KLM and Sabena would reap if the district court's injunction were overturned would be the right to attack the pending United States action in a foreign court. This would permit the appellants to avoid potential liability under the United States laws to which their business operations and treaty obligations have long subjected them. In these circumstances there is ample precedent justifying the defensive use of an antisuit injunction.

The injunction does not transgress either the principles of international comity or nationality-based prescriptive jurisdiction on which KLM and Sabena rely. Limitations on the application of comity dating from the origins of the doctrine recognize that a domestic forum is not compelled to acquiesce in pre- or postjudgment conduct by litigants which frustrates the significant policies of the domestic forum. Accession to a demand for comity predicated on the coercive effects of a foreign judgment usurping legitimately concurrent prescriptive jurisdiction is unlikely to foster the processes of accommodation and cooperation

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which form the basis for a genuine system of international comity. Similarly, the mere fact of Laker's British juridical status simply does not erase all other legitimate bases of concurrent jurisdiction, as appellants suggest. Thus, the appellants' arguments that the district court abused its discretion fall well short of their mark.

The claims raised by KLM and Sabena do pose serious issues regarding the Judiciary's role in accommodating the conflicting implementation of concurrent prescriptive jurisdiction. We have necessarily inquired into the source of the conflict facing the courts of the United States and United Kingdom, and probed the extent to which the judicial processes may effectively be employed to resolve conflicts like the present one. Given the inherent limitations on the Judiciary's ability to adjust national priorities in light of directly contradictory foreign policies, there is little the Judiciary may do directly to resolve the conflict. Although the flash point of the controversy has been the antisuit injunctions, the real powder keg is the strongly mandated legislative policies which each national court is bound to implement. Thus, it is unlikely that the underlying controversy would be defused regardless of the action we take today.

Because the principles of comity and concurrent jurisdiction clearly authorize the use of a defensive preliminary injunction designed to permit the United States claim to go forward free of foreign interference, we affirm the decision of the district court.

I. BACKGROUND

This case raises especially troublesome issues on two different fronts. It represents a...

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