745 F.2d 1500 (D.C. Cir. 1984), 83-1950, Ramirez de Arellano v. Weinberger

Docket Nº:83-1950.
Citation:745 F.2d 1500
Party Name:Temistocles RAMIREZ de ARELLANO, et al., Appellants, v. Caspar W. WEINBERGER, Secretary of Defense, et al.
Case Date:October 05, 1984
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
 
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Page 1500

745 F.2d 1500 (D.C. Cir. 1984)

Temistocles RAMIREZ de ARELLANO, et al., Appellants,

v.

Caspar W. WEINBERGER, Secretary of Defense, et al.

No. 83-1950.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

October 5, 1984

As Amended Oct. 5, 1984.

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia (Civil Action No. 83-02002).

Mark R. Joelson, Washington, D.C., with whom Jerry D. Anker, Greer S. Goldman, Mark N. Bravin and Don Wallace, Jr., Washington, D.C., were on the brief, for appellants. Donald H. Green and John F. Daly, Washington, D.C., also entered appearances for appellants.

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John M. Rogers, Atty., Dept. of Justice, Washington, D.C., with whom Richard K. Willard, Acting Asst. Atty. Gen., Joseph E. diGenova, U.S. Atty., William Kanter, Atty., Dept. of Justice, and Steven Asher, Atty., Dept. of State, Washington, D.C., were on the brief, for appellees. Michael Hertz, Marc Johnston, Attys., Dept. of Justice, R. Craig Lawrence and Stuart H. Newberger, Asst. U.S. Attys., Washington, D.C., also entered appearances for appellees.

Before ROBINSON, Chief Judge, and WRIGHT, TAMM, WILKEY, MIKVA, EDWARDS, GINSBURG, BORK, SCALIA and STARR, Circuit Judges.

OUTLINE I. BACKGROUND ................................................. 1506 A. The Plaintiffs' Set of Facts ............................ 1506 B. Procedural History ...................................... 1508 C. Subsequent Developments ................................. 1509 II. THE PLAINTIFFS' CLAIMS .................................... 1510 III. JUSTICIABILITY ............................................ 1511 IV. STANDING .................................................. 1515 V. RELIEF FOR THE STATED CLAIMS .............................. 1521 A. Equitable Discretion of the District Court ............. 1521 1. Adequacy of the remedy at law ...................... 1522 2. Balancing the equities and prudential considerations .................................... 1528 a. Location of the land ............................ 1529 b. Honduran law .................................... 1530 c. Separation of powers ............................ 1530 d. Compliance and monitoring ....................... 1531 B. Declaratory Relief ..................................... 1532 C. Relief for the Due Process Claims ...................... 1533 VI. ACT OF STATE ............................................... 1533 A. The Factual Basis for Applying the Act of State Doctrine on This Appeal ................................. 1534 B. Legal Obstacles to the Application of the Act of State Doctrine .......................................... 1539 VII. CONCLUSION ................................................. 1543

Opinion for the court filed by Circuit Judge WILKEY.

Dissenting opinion filed by Circuit Judge TAMM.

Dissenting opinion filed by Circuit Judge SCALIA, in which Circuit Judges BORK and STARR concur.

Dissenting opinion filed by Circuit Judge STARR, in which Circuit Judge SCALIA concurs.

WILKEY, Circuit Judge:

This case involves an alleged occupation, amounting to an effective seizure and destruction, of a United States citizen's privately owned cattle ranch in Honduras by officials of the United States government. Temistocles Ramirez de Arellano (Ramirez), a United States citizen, claims that the Secretaries of State and Defense are operating a large military facility for training Salvadoran soldiers on his private ranch without permission or lawful authority, in violation of the Constitution. Ramirez alleges, in essence, that a United States sponsored and controlled military center is occupying his land, destroying his life's work, and exposing his family and employees to life threatening conditions. The complaint filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia requests declaratory and injunctive relief for the alleged occupation and destruction of private property without constitutional or statutory authority and for a deprivation of the use and enjoyment of property without due process of law. The district court dismissed the complaint prior to any discovery or findings of fact on the ground that the dispute was a nonjusticiable political question. 1 We reverse.

The plaintiffs' claims present varied and complex issues of core constitutional concern. We emphasize, however, that we are not now being asked to enter judgment on the merits for one of the parties. Because the case is before us on an appeal of the district court's dismissal of the complaint at the threshold of litigation, we need only determine whether the plaintiffs have stated a justiciable claim for relief which falls within the jurisdiction of the district court. In so doing, we address the assortment of ingenious but spurious arguments which the defendants have conceived and advanced in an effort to wipe out the plaintiffs' case. We find the dismissal of the complaint was precipitous.

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We proceed under the settled rule for assessing the propriety of dismissal under Rule 12(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Many potentially dispositive facts are intensely disputed by the parties, such as the role of the Honduran armed forces and the United States military in operating the Regional Military Training Center (RMTC), and the extent of land occupied and used for the military base. Because there has been neither factfinding by the district court nor stipulation of undisputed facts by the parties, we must accept as true all of the material allegations in the plaintiffs' complaint. Dismissal for failure to state a claim for relief is proper only when "it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." 2 All factual doubts must be resolved and all inferences made in favor of the plaintiffs. 3 Defendants' factual allegations, if in agreement with plaintiffs', only reinforce plaintiffs' case; if in disagreement, they must be ignored. Thus, at this stage of the proceedings, the only relevant factual allegations are the plaintiffs'.

I. BACKGROUND

  1. The Plaintiffs' Set of Facts

    The plaintiffs' set of facts are detailed in the verified complaint filed by Ramirez and six corporate plaintiffs, in eleven sworn declarations filed with the district court, and in numerous newspaper reports appended to the plaintiffs' pleadings and memoranda. Assuming, as we must, the truth of the plaintiffs' material allegations, the facts are as follows.

    Plaintiff Ramirez is a citizen of the United States. He is the sole beneficial owner, the general manager, and the chief executive officer of a large agricultural-industrial complex in the northern region of Honduras. Plaintiff Ramirez is a businessman and was a founding member of the Lion's Club of Trujillo, Honduras, as well as the founder of the Association for the Defense of the Free Enterprise System in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Ramirez has engaged in numerous civic and community services in Puerto Rico and in Central America, including assisting the United States government in a meat distribution program for Puerto Rico. Ramirez conducts his business operations through six corporations which he owns and controls. Two of these corporate plaintiffs are United States nationals and four are incorporated in Honduras. Together they form a chain of title through which plaintiff Ramirez holds his interest in the land and property at issue. 4

    Plaintiff Ramirez acquired his large tract of land in Honduras more than 20 years ago, when it was raw, undeveloped jungle. Since then he has transformed the land into a 14,000-acre cattle ranch, meat-packing operation and shrimp-packing plant. According to Ramirez's sworn declaration filed with the court, he "supervised the clearing of this land, planting feed grass, constructing fences, farmroads, cattle pens, cattle treatment facilities, warehouses and numerous other buildings, water ponds and reservoirs, and housing for [his] employees and their families." 5 The business operation employs approximately 500 workers and is the single largest employer in the Department of Colon, Honduras. The plaintiffs' initial total investment in the property has increased from approximately $700,000 to more than $13,000,000. 6

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    Still assuming the truth of the plaintiffs' factual allegations, the plaintiffs' property was occupied by the defendants without permission in 1983. In March of that year, the United States Department of Defense decided to establish a Regional Military Training Center for the United States to train soldiers from the army of El Salvador. Because of Congress's unwillingness to increase the number of military advisers in El Salvador itself, the Defense Department decided not to locate the military training center there. 7 Instead, after reportedly considering several other countries, the Defense Department chose Honduras as the location for the RMTC. Newspaper articles in the United States at the time reported that the Honduran government was resisting the Defense Department's placement of the military center in Honduras and that a United States Army spokesman said that Honduras did not have anywhere to locate the training center. 8

    Nonetheless, officials of the United States Department of Defense began a survey of land in the vicinity of Ramirez's property, and in April of 1983 they picked a specific site in Honduras for the Regional Military Training Center. Unknown to Ramirez...

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