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SANCHEZ-ESPINOZA v. REAGAN

August 1, 1983

JAVIER SANCHEZ-ESPINOZA, resident of the village of San Francisco de Guajinquilapa, Department of Chinadega, Republic of Nicaragua, MYRNA CUNNINGHAM, resident of Puerto Cabezas, Department of Zelaya, Republic of Nicaragua, BRENDA ROCHA, resident of the village of Bonanza, Department of Zelaya, Republic of Nicaragua, MARIA ESPINAL-MONDRAGON (VIUDA DE GUEVARA), individually and as personal representative of Victorino Guevara-Centeno, resident of the village of San Francisco de Guajiniquilapa Department of Chinandega, Republic of Nicaragua, VICTORINO HERNANDEZ-AGUILERA, resident of the village of San Francisco de Guajiniquilapa, Department of Chinandega, Republlic of Nicaragua, JOSE SANTOS-BARRERA, individually and as personal representative of Evilio Baquedano Barrera, resident of the village of San Francisco de Guajiniquilapa, Department of Chinandega, Republic of Necaragua, ELIA MARIA ESPINOZA (VIUDA DE MONCADA), individually and as personal representative of Ramon Aristides Moncada, resident of the village of San Francisco de Guajiniquilapa Department of Chinandega, Republic of Nicaragua, ROSEANGELA RESQUITA GROSJEAN, individually and as personal representative of Dr. Pierre Grosjean, resident of Paris, France, MARIA RIGAT-PFLAUM, individually and as personal representative of Dr. Albrecht Pflaum, resident of Berlin, Germany, ULLRICH PFLAUM, individually and as personal respresentative of Dr. Albrecht Pflaum, resident of Frankfurt, Germany, MARIA BUSTILLO DE BLANDON, individually and as personal representative of Ricardo, Leonardo, Gregorio, Juan Angeles, Nicolas and Antonio Blandon, resident of La Fragua, Department of Neuva Segovia, Republic of Nicaragua, CONCEPCION LOPEZ-TORRES, resident of Octal, Department of Nueva Segovia, Republic of Nicaragua, RONALD V. DELLUMS, in his capacity as member of the United States House of Representatives, 2136 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington WILLIAM CLAY, in his capacity as a member of the United States House of Representatives, 2470 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington D.C. 20515, GEORGE CROCKETT, in his capacity as a member of the United States House of Representatives, 1531 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 10515, JOHN CONYERS, in his capacity as a member of the United States House of Representatives, 2313 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515, MELVYN DYMALLY, in his capacity as a member of the United States House of Representatives, 1717 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515, WALTER FAUNTROY, in his capacity as a member of the United States House of Representatives, 2135 Rayburn House Office Building, Washington D.C. 20515, MICKEY LELAND, in his capacity as a member of the United States House of Representatives, Rayburn Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20505, GEORGE MILLER, III, in his capacity as a member of the United States House of Representatives, 419 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20505, PARREN J. MITCHELL, in his capacity as a member of the United States House of Representatives, 2367 Rayburn House Bldg., Washington, D.C. 20215, MAJOR OWENS, in his capacity as a member of the United States House of Representatives, 114 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515 GUS SAVAGE, in his capacity as a member of the United States House of Representatives, 1121 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515, THEODORE S. WEISS, in his capacity as a member of the United States House of Representatives, 132 Cannon House Office Building, Washington, D.C. 20515, ELEANOR GINSBERG, ex rel. State of Florida 9500 Southwest 60th Court, Miami, Florida, 33156, and LARRY O'TOOLE, ex rel." State of Florida, 15625 Southwest 102nd Place, Miami, Florida, 33157, Plaintiffs,
v.
RONALD WILSON REAGAN, individually and in his official capacity as President of the United States, WILLIAM CASEY, individually and in his official capacity as Director of Central Intelligence, ALEXANDER M. HAIG, JR., GEORGE P. SHULTZ, individually and in his official capacity as United States Secretary of State, THOMAS O. ENDERS, individually, VERNON WALTERS, individually and in his official capacity as United States Ambassador-at-Large, CASPAR WEINBERGER, individually and in his official capacity as United States Secretary of Defense, NESTOR SANCHEZ, individually and in his official capacity as United States Assistant Secretary of Defense, JOHN D. NEGROPONTE, individually and in his official capacity as United States Ambassador to Honduras, MAX VARGAS, individually, ALPHA 66 Inc., a Florida corporation, BAY OF PIGS VETERANS ASSOCIATION, Brigade 2506, Inc., and JOHN DOE AND RICHARD ROE, as yet unidentified officers or agents employed by the United States, Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CORCORAN

Before the Court is the motion of the federal defendants, pursuant to Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to dismiss this action in its entirety, or, in the alternative, to dismiss it as against the federal defendants. As grounds therefor they assert, inter alia, that (1) subject matter jurisdiction is lacking due to the presence of a political question, (2) plaintiffs do not have standing, (3) plaintiffs have failed to state a cause of action under any of the theories alleged in the complaint, (4) personal jurisdiction is lacking over several of the federal defendants, (5) venue is improper in the District of Columbia, and (6) the federal defendants enjoy absolute immunity from suits of this type. Plaintiffs have opposed. There has been extensive briefing of all the issues presented.

 I. BACKGROUND

 As presently drafted, *fn1" the complaint lists twenty-six plaintiffs, to wit, (1) twelve non-resident aliens, citizens of Nicaragua, (2) twelve members of the United States House of Representatives, and (3) two residents of the state of Florida who sue on behalf of that state. The named defendants can similarly be broken down into three groups, namely (1) nine present or former officials of the Executive Branch, including President Ronald Reagan, *fn2" (2) three non-federal defendants (one individual and two unincorporated associations located in Florida), and (3) an unspecified number of, as yet, unidentified officers or agents employed by the United States.

 The complaint is styled in eight causes of action which, for our purposes, can be grouped together into three broad categories of claims for relief. First, the Nicaraguan plaintiffs seek damages for injuries allegedly caused by U.S.-sponsored terrorist raids against various towns and villages in Nicaragua. They allege that paramilitary activities have been, and continue to be, financed and carried out by the U.S. government, its agents and employees, against the people of Nicaragua, in an attempt to overthrow their national government. Plaintiffs maintain that the U.S.-sponsored raids violate fundamental human rights established under international law and the U.S. Constitution. These plaintiffs also seek an injunction prohibiting further U.S. military involvement in Nicaragua.

 The Congressional plaintiffs present a second category of claims. They allege that the activities described above constitute acts of war which have not been authorized by Congress. These plaintiffs claim violations of their authority to declare war under Article I, § 8, cl. 11, of the Constitution, and laws promulgated thereunder, such as the so-called "neutrality laws," 18 U.S.C. §§ 956 et seq., and the War Powers Resolution, 50 U.S.C. §§ 1541-48. In short, they sue to stop an alleged undeclared war waged by the federal defendants against the people and government of Nicaragua. The Congressional plaintiffs also allege a violation of the Boland Amendment to the 1983 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, P.L. 97-337, § 793 (1982), which prohibits the Central Intelligence Agency ("CIA") and the Department of Defense from using any of the funds provided in the Act for military activities aimed at overthrowing the government of Nicaragua. The Congressmen seek declaratory and injunctive relief.

 Finally, the Florida plaintiffs seek to enjoin the alleged operation of U.S.-sponsored paramilitary training camps located in Florida, inasmuch as they constitute a nuisance under Florida law. Plaintiffs Eleanor Ginsberg and Larry O'Toole, residents of Dade County, Florida, sue on behalf of the state of Florida, to close those camps.

 Plaintiffs rely on 28 U.S.C. §§ 1331 (federal question), 1350 (alien tort claims), 1361 (mandamus), 2201 and 2202 (declaratory judgments), and the doctrine of pendent jurisdiction, see United Mine Workers v. Gibbs, 383 U.S. 715, 16 L. Ed. 2d 218, 86 S. Ct. 1130 (1966), as grounds for establishing subject matter jurisdiction in this Court. *fn3"

 II. DISCUSSION

 This lawsuit is another cog in the wheel of controversy currently surrounding U.S. government involvement in Central America, particularly in Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador. The federal defendants strenuously argue that adjudication of plaintiffs' claims would impermissibly interfere with the constitutional powers of the Executive and Legislative branches of our government to conduct foreign affairs and attend to national security concerns. As a result, they argue, this case presents a non-justiciable political question. We agree.

 The political question doctrine insures that the judiciary exhibits appropriate concern for the separation of powers under our tri-parttite system of government. Marbury v. Madison, 5 U.S. (1 Cranch) 137, 165-66, 2 L. Ed. 60 (1803); Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 210, 7 L. Ed. 2d 663, 82 S. Ct. 691 (1962); Laird v. Tatum, 408 U.S. 1, 15, 33 L. Ed. 2d 154, 92 S. Ct. 2318 (1972); see INS v. Chadha, 462 U.S. 919, 77 L. Ed. 2d 317, 103 S. Ct. 2764, 51 U.S.L.W. 4907 (1983). To determine whether the resolution of a matter violates separation of powers principles, thereby making it a non-justiciable political question, we must apply the factors outlined by the Supreme Court in Baker:

 
Prominent on the surface of any case held to involve a political question is found a textually demonstrable constitutional commitment of the issue to a coordinate political department; or a lack of judicially discoverable and manageable standards for resolving it; or the impossibility of deciding without an initial policy determination of a kind clearly for nonjudicial discretion; or the impossibility of a court's undertaking independent resolution without expressing lack of the respect due coordinate branches of government; or an unusual need for unquestioning adherence to a political decision already made; or the potentiality of embarrassment from multifarious pronouncements by various departments on one question.

 369 U.S. at 217; see Consumer Energy, Etc. v. F.E.R.C., 218 U.S. App. D.C. 34, 673 F.2d 425, 452 (D.C. Cir. 1982), aff'd., 463 U.S. 1216, 103 S. Ct. 3556, 77 L. ...


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