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RAMIREZ DE ARELLANO v. WEINBERGER

August 24, 1983

TEMISTOCLES RAMIREZ de ARELLANO, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
CASPAR W. WEINBERGER, et al., Defendants



The opinion of the court was delivered by: RICHEY

 INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND

 Prior to the foregoing, plaintiffs' application for a temporary restraining order was denied. Between the time of the hearing on the temporary restraining order and the hearing on a motion for a preliminary injunction, plaintiffs' attorneys went to Honduras to inspect plaintiffs' property and to confer with U.S. Embassy and Honduran officials and others.

 On the basis of the entire record herein and the oral argument of counsel for both parties, the Court has determined that the governments' motion to dismiss must be granted for the reasons hereinafter stated and that the plaintiffs' motion for a preliminary injunction must be denied since the court need not reach the merits of that issue.

 Defendants have moved to dismiss on the grounds that (1) this action involves non-justiciable political questions, (2) the Court should exercise the doctrine of "circumscribed equitable discretion," and (3) the complaint fails to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. After careful consideration, the Court has decided that this case presents non-justiciable political questions in that any Court is ill-equipped to apply appropriate and proper standards necessary to resolve this type of dispute. Moreover, prudential considerations counsel against judicial intervention in a sensitive military, diplomatic, and foreign policy case reaching the highest levels of a coordinate branch of our government where those considerations are predominate. Accordingly, defendants' motion to dismiss must be granted for the reasons hereinafter stated.

 Plaintiffs are an American citizen and six corporations, two Puerto Rican and four Honduran, through which plaintiff Rameriz owns certain property (an agricultural-industrial complex of approximately 14,000 acres located in the Department of Colon, Honduras) which is at the heart of this dispute. Defendants are the United States Secretaries of Defense and State, and the Chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

 It is undisputed that when American officials are alleged to have first surveyed part of plaintiffs' property for possible use for a Regional Military Training Center, they were under the mistaken belief that the land was owned by the government of Honduras. When they were informed that the property belonged to plaintiff Ramirez, all work stopped. Subsequently, plaintiff Rameriz stated that he would not try to stop the Regional Military Training Center from being built provided that it was restricted to the area originally selected -- 600 to 800 hectares (1,500 to 2,000 acres)("Designated Area"). On June 4, 1983, plaintiff Rameriz received and signed a document which purported to expropriate the Designated Area for use as a military installation under the Honduran Law of Forced Expropriation. *fn2" Plaintiff Ramirez alleges that subsequent to the "expropriation" by the Honduran government some additional 5,400 acres of his land has been seized for use for the Regional Military Training Center. Defendants assert that the Regional Military Training Center is a Honduran facility and that any U.S. involvement is undertaken at the invitation of the Government of Honduras pursuant to bilateral military assistance agreements.

 THE POLITICAL QUESTION DOCTRINE

 In certain cases, federal judicial relief must be withheld because of the inappropriateness of the subject matter for judicial consideration: "non-justiciability." Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186, 198, 7 L. Ed. 2d 663, 82 S. Ct. 691 (1962). In Baker, the seminal case in this area, the Supreme Court set forth the factors to be considered by the courts in deciding if a case is non-justiciable because of the political question doctrine. The factors, summarized by Justice Powell in Goldwater v. Carter, 444 U.S. 996, 998, 62 L. Ed. 2d 428, 100 S. Ct. 533 (1979) (Powell, J., concurring) lead to "three inquiries: (i) Does the issue involve resolution of questions committed by the text of the Constitution to a coordinate branch of Government? (ii) Would resolution of the question demand that a court move beyond areas of judicial expertise? (iii) Do prudential considerations counsel against judicial intervention?"

 THE CONDUCT OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS IS CONSTITUTIONALLY COMMITTED TO THE POLITICAL BRANCHES, NAMELY, THE EXECUTIVE AND CONGRESS

 The political question doctrine rests upon the structure of our national government, i.e., our tripartite system of government involving separation of powers. Baker, 369 U.S. at 210. The conduct of foreign affairs is committed to the Executive and Legislative branches by Article II, Section 2, and Article I, Section 8, of the Constitution.

 Our own Circuit Court has stated that "the fundamental division of authority and power established by the Constitution precludes judges from overseeing the conduct of foreign policy or the use or disposition of military power; these matters are plainly the exclusive province of Congress and the Executive." Luftig v. McNamara, 126 U.S. App. D.C. 4, 373 F.2d 664, 665-66 (D.C. Cir.), cert. denied, 387 U.S. 945, 18 L. Ed. 2d 1332, 87 S. Ct. 2078 (1967). The controversy here is inextricably connected with our government's relations with Honduras, El Salvador, and the governments of other nations in a strife torn region of Central America. ...


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