Turtle Island Restoration Network v. US Dep't of State

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Civil Procedure
  • Date Filed: 02-17-2012
  • Case #: 10-17059
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Chief Judge Kozinski for the Court; Circuit Judge Farris and District Judge Gettleman
  • Full Text Opinion

A certification process that gives rise to an allegation on an annual basis does not defeat claim preclusion each year when a party has already had an opportunity to litigate the issue.

Turtle Island Restoration Network ("TIRN") appealed the district court's dismissal of its claim on res judicata grounds. TIRN previously belonged to the Earth Island Institute, who filed suit in the early 1990s against the State Department for alleged violations of Section 609 of Public Law 101-162, pertaining to a prohibition on shrimp importation for marine turtle conservation. The district court found that TIRN's claims "arise from the same transactional nucleus of facts as the previous Earth Island litigation." On appeal, the only disputed issue was whether there is an "identity of claims" between the two cases. The Court recognized that the two suits alleged different legal claims but found that both claims arose from the "same transactional nucleus of legal facts." The Court stated that TIRN's purported excuse for not bringing the current claim earlier, that it sought an alternative resolution, demonstrated that TIRN was aware of the issue and chose not to litigate it. Seeking an alternative resolution is not a defense to claim preclusion. TIRN also asserted its new claim stems from actions by the State Department in 2009, which TIRN could not have known about in its earlier claim. The Court responded that TIRN used the State Department's acts in 2009 as an example, and that the actual claim is for the State Department's "long-standing practice of non-compliance." The fact that the State Department's certification decisions each year may be alleged to be in violation of Section 609 does not defeat claim preclusion when TIRN already had an opportunity to litigate the claim. AFFIRMED.

Advanced Search