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Lin v. United States

United States District Court, District of Columbia

March 31, 2016

DR. ROGER C.S. LIN, et al., Plaintiffs
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA and REPUBLIC OF CHINA TAIWAN, Defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

COLLEEN KOLLAR-KOTELLY, United States District Judge

Plaintiffs are residents of Taiwan and members of an advocacy group in Taiwan who allege that in 1946, the Republic of China-at that time recognized by the United States as the government of China-unlawfully denied the population of Taiwan of its Japanese nationality at the conclusion of World War II. Specifically, Plaintiff allege that the Republic of China issued nationality decrees that unlawfully denied those residing on Taiwan, as well as their descendants, of their Japanese nationality. Plaintiff further allege that the United States shares legal responsibility for the denial of Plaintiffs’ Japanese nationality because the Republic of China, through Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek, was “acting as an agent of the United States” when the decrees were issued in 1946. Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendants, the United States and the Republic of China (Taiwan), seeking relief in the form of (1) a declaration that the nationality decrees of 1946 violated international law and (2) an award for monetary damages for the tort of arbitrary denationalization.

Presently before the Court are Defendant United States’ [23] Motion to Dismiss and Defendant Republic of China’s [24] Motion to Dismiss, both pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Upon consideration of the pleadings, [1] the relevant legal authorities, and the record as a whole, the Court finds that the Court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ claims with respect to both Defendants. Accordingly, the Court shall GRANT Defendant United States’ [23] Motion to Dismiss, and the Court shall GRANT Defendant Republic of China’s [24] Motion to Dismiss.

I. BACKGROUND

For the purposes of the motions before the Court, the Court accepts as true the well-pleaded allegations in Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint. The Court does “not accept as true, however, the plaintiff’s legal conclusions or inferences that are unsupported by the facts alleged.” Ralls Corp. v. Comm. on Foreign Inv. in U.S., 758 F.3d 296, 315 (D.C. Cir. 2014). The Court recites the principal facts pertaining to the issues raised in the pending motions, reserving further presentation of the facts for the discussion of the individual issues below.

Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint provides a “short history lesson” concerning the political status of Taiwan over the last 120 years.[2] In 1895, at the conclusion of the Sino-Japanese War, China and Japan signed the Treaty of Shimonoseki, pursuant to which, China ceded Taiwan (then known as Formosa) to Japan in “perpetuity and full sovereignty.” Am. Compl. ¶¶ 28-31. On December 7, 1941, Japan attacked the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and as a result the United States Congress issued a Declaration of War on December 8. Id. ¶¶ 33-34. After four years of war, Japan surrendered on September 2, 1945. Id. ¶ 34. On that same day, General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, issued General Order No. 1, ordering the “senior Japanese commanders and all ground, sea, air, and auxiliary forces within . . . Formosa” to “surrender to Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek.” Id. ¶ 35.

According to the Amended Complaint, Chiang Kai-shek was the leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party of the Republic of China and was the “representative of the Allied Powers empowered to accept surrender[]” of the Japanese forces in Taiwan. Id. On October 25, 1945, Chiang Kai-shek’s representative in Taiwan accepted the surrender of the Japanese forces there, although “[t]he surrender of Japanese forces in Taiwan (Formosa) was assisted by the United States Armed Forces.” Id. Plaintiffs allege that in the aftermath of Japan’s surrender, Chiang Kai-shek and his Chinese Nationalist Party administered Taiwan on behalf of the Allied Powers, such that the Republic of China acted as “the agent of the United States.” Id. ¶ 45.[3]

On January 12, 1946, the Republic of China issued a decree mandating, effective December 25, 1945, the automatic restoration of Chinese nationality for the people of Taiwan. Id. ¶ 37. The decree stated:

The people of Taiwan are people of our country. They lost their nationality because the island was invaded by an enemy. Now that the land has been recovered, the people who originally had the nationality of our country shall, effective December 25, 1945, resume the nationality of our country. This is announced by this general decree in addition to individual orders.

Id. Several months later, on June 22, 1946, the Republic of China issued a decree on Measures Concerning the Nationality of Overseas Taiwanese (also translated as “Measures For The Adjustment of Nationality of Taiwanese Abroad”). Id. ¶ 39. The measure provided that persons living outside of Taiwan would likewise have Chinese nationality restored to them, and issued a certificate of registration. Id.

Plaintiffs allege that “the United States did not give the Republic of China the appropriate authority to issue the 1946 Nationality Decrees.” Id. ¶ 41. Plaintiffs also allege that the United States was “fully aware of these Decrees” and was also “aware . . . that the decree[s] violated international law.” Id. ¶ 41, 43.

On February 27, 2015, Plaintiffs filed suit against Defendants the United States and the Republic of China. Plaintiffs seek a series of Court-ordered declarations holding that the Republic of China’s nationality decrees are legally invalid under various international instruments, and that the United States did not authorize the Republic of China to issue those decrees. See id., Prayer for Relief, ¶ 1. Plaintiffs also seek an award for monetary damages against the Republic of China for the tort of arbitrary denationalization. See id., Prayer for Relief, ¶ 2. Both Defendants have filed Motions to Dismiss Plaintiffs’ Amended Complaint, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6).

II. LEGAL STANDARD

“Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction” and can adjudicate only those cases or controversies entrusted to them by the Constitution or an Act of Congress. Kokkonen v. Guardian Life Ins. Co. of Am., 511 U.S. 375, 377. “In an attempt to give meaning to Article III's case-or-controversy requirement, the courts have developed a series of principles termed ‘justiciability doctrines, ’ among which are standing . . . and the political question doctrine.” Nat'l Treasury Employees Union v. United States, 101 F.3d 1423, 1427 (D.C. Cir. 1996) (citing Allen v. Wright, 468 U.S. 737, 750 (1984)). These doctrines incorporate both the prudential elements, which “ ‘Congress is free to override, ’ ” id. (quoting Fair Employment Council of Greater Wash., Inc. v. BMC Mktg. Corp., 28 F.3d 1268, 1278 (D.C. Cir. 1994)), and “ ‘core component[s]’ ” which are “ ‘essential and unchanging part[s] of the case-or-controversy requirement of Article III, ’ ” id. (quoting Lujan v. Defenders of Wildlife, 504 U.S. 555, 560 (1992)).

The Court begins with the presumption that it does not have subject matter jurisdiction over a case. Id. To survive a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), a plaintiff bears the burden of establishing that the Court has subject matter jurisdiction over its claim. Moms Against Mercury v. FDA, 483 F.3d 824, 828 (D.C. Cir. 2007). In determining whether there is jurisdiction, the Court may “consider the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts evidenced in the record, or the complaint supplemented by undisputed facts plus the court’s resolution of disputed facts.” Coal. for Underground Expansion v. Mineta, 333 F.3d 193, 198 (D.C. Cir. 2003) (citations omitted). “Although a court must accept as true all factual allegations contained in the complaint when reviewing a motion to dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(1), ” the factual allegations in the complaint “will bear closer scrutiny in resolving a 12(b)(1) motion than in resolving a 12(b)(6) motion for failure to state a claim.” Wright v. Foreign Serv. Grievance Bd., 503 F.Supp.2d 163, 170 (D.D.C. 2007) (citations omitted).

III. DISCUSSION

In moving to dismiss, the two Defendants have each put forward a plethora of arguments as to why this Court should dismiss Plaintiffs’ case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. Specifically, both Defendants argue that this Court lacks jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ claims because (1) Plaintiffs do not have standing under Article III of the United States Constitution and (2) Plaintiffs’ request that declarations be issued concerning the nationality status of residents of Taiwan presents a “quintessential non-justiciable political question.” In addition, Defendant Republic of China argues that the Court lacks jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ claims against the Republic of China under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.

Upon review of the parties’ submissions, the Court finds that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over Plaintiffs’ case. Accordingly, the Court shall not consider Defendants’ remaining arguments, which concern the merits of Plaintiffs’ claims, namely, whether Plaintiffs fail to state a cause of action and whether the applicable statutes of limitations bar Plaintiffs’ claims. See Steel Co. v. Citizens for a Better Env't, 523 U.S. 83, 94-95 (1998). The Court shall limit its discussion to the threshold jurisdictional issues that bar adjudication of this matter. See Anderson v. Carter, 802 F.3d 4, 10 (D.C. Cir. 2015) (“While the Supreme Court in Steel Co. makes clear that once we have established that we have no subject-matter jurisdiction, we can proceed no further, we do not violate this admonition when we observe that more than one threshold basis bars adjudication.”).

A. Plaintiffs lack standing under Article III of the United States Constitution.

Pursuant to Article III of the Constitution, Defendants move to dismiss this action on the basis that this Court has no jurisdiction because Plaintiffs lack standing. “Article III of the Constitution limits the jurisdiction of federal courts to ‘actual cases or controversies between proper litigants.’ ” Mendoza v. Perez, 754 F.3d 1002, 1010 (D.C. Cir. 2014) (quoting Fla. Audubon Soc'y v. Bentsen, 94 F.3d 658, 661 (D.C. Cir. 1996)). Because standing is a “threshold jurisdictional requirement, ” a court may not assume that Plaintiff has standing in order to proceed to evaluate a case on the merits. Bauer v. Marmara, 774 F.3d 1026, 1031 (D.C. Cir. 2014). A plaintiff “bears the burden of showing that he has standing for each type of relief sought.” Summers v. Earth Island Inst., 555 U.S. 488, 493 (2009). “To establish constitutional standing, plaintiffs ‘must have suffered or be imminently threatened with a concrete and particularized injury in fact that is fairly traceable to the challenged action ...


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