The Janko (also called Norsktank)

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
Docket NumberCase No. 29
Date10 February 1944
United States, District Court, Eastern District New York.

(Galston, District Judge.)

Case No. 29
The Janko (The Norsktank).

Conclusiveness of Statements of Executive Department — Claim to Immunity — The Law of the United States.

Jurisdiction — Immunity from — Vessels in Possession of Foreign State — Claim to Immunity — Means by which Foreign State Obtains Possession — Relevance of — Statement of Executive Department — Nature of Activity of the Vessel.

The Facts.—This was a possessory libel brought by Pankos Operating Company, S.A., a Panamanian corporation, against the motor tank vessel Janko (also called Norsktank), claiming ownership of the vessel, and alleging that while the vessel was under charter to a British corporation, she was seized, in October 1941, in the Netherlands West Indies in a Prize Court proceeding, and that in November 1941 the master was informed that the vessel had been transferred to the Norwegian Government. “On February 5, 1944, the Kingdom of Norway, appearing specially, obtained an order to show cause against the libellant seeking the dismissal of the suit and the vacation of the attachment on the ground that the suit was brought against a vessel ‘in the possession of a friendly sovereign nation, not subject to the jurisdiction of this court, immune from suit in and process of this court’ This order issued on the affidavit of a member of the firm of proctors representing the claimant and upon the suggestion of immunity of the United States Government filed by a special assistant to the United States Attorney. Attached to the suggestion of immunity is a letter dated February 2, 1944, from the Secretary of State to the Attorney General, to which were attached certified copies of notes dated January 21 and January 29, 1944, with accompanying documents from the Norwegian Ambassador; and also certain copies of two notes, both dated January 22, 1944, with accompanying documents, from the British Ambassador and the Netherlands Embassy. The letter of the Secretary of State contains the following passage: ‘That the Department of State accepts as true the statements of fact contained in the notes of the Norwegian Ambassador and recognizes and allows the claim presented by him on behalf of the Kingdom of Norway that the vessel is entitled to immunity from judicial process in the courts of this country.’” Among the statements contained in the suggestion of immunity with accompanying documents was a representation that the “vessel had been in the continuous possession of the Kingdom of Norway for over two years, since November 20, 1941, having been put at the disposition of such government by the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and that she is engaged in the transportation of oil in the Allied...

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