Ali v. Rogers

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Admiralty
  • Date Filed: 03-19-2015
  • Case #: 13-15145
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Silverman for the Court; Senior Circuit Judge Schroeder and Senior District Judge Garbis
  • Full Text Opinion

A district court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over claims brought against a private individual when the claims are required to be brought against the United States pursuant to the Public Vessel Act and Suits in Admiralty Act.

In 2010, Abdulhalim Ali worked on the crew of the SS PETERSBURG, a vessel owned by the United States Maritime Administration. In January 2010, Abdulhalim Ali was fired from service on the PETERSBURG, allegedly due to his Yemeni origin. He subsequently brought 42 U.S.C. §§ 1981 and 1983 claims against Robert Rogers, the director of the vessel operator’s human resources department, for “Wrongful Termination – Discrimination.” Following Abdulhalim Ali’s termination, Rogers allegedly directed that Mohamed Ali should not be hired for service on the PETERSBURG because he is a Yemeni Muslim; in turn, Mohamed Ali brought §§ 1981 and 1983 claims against Rogers for “Discrimination in Contracting” and “Discrimination in Hiring.” The district court dismissed both Abdulhalim Ali’s and Mohamed Ali’s claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit sought to determine whether Abdulhalim Ali’s and Mohamed Ali’s claims were sufficiently maritime in nature that they should have been brought against the United States under the Public Vessel Act (“PVA”) and Suits in Admiralty Act (“SIAA”), rather than against Rogers. Because the PETERSBURG is undisputedly a “public vessel of the United States,” and assuming some form of damages was involved, the panel was left to determine whether Abdulhalim Ali’s and Mohamed Ali’s claims could be properly characterized as “civil actions in personam in admiralty,” such that they might permit recovery under the PVA and SIAA. The panel held that both Abdulhalim Ali’s and Mohamed Ali’s claims were subject to both the PVA and SIAA because they were “indisputably maritime in nature” and plainly “reference . . . maritime service or maritime transactions,” respectively. The panel concluded that the district court had properly dismissed the claims for lack of subject matter jurisdiction because both men should have brought their claims against the United States, not Rogers. AFFIRMED.

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