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Civil Practice – Subject-Matter Jurisdiction – Standing – Nonresident Aliens – Iraqi Shootings – Remand

Civil Practice – Subject-Matter Jurisdiction – Standing – Nonresident Aliens – Iraqi Shootings – Remand

Brady v. Xe Services LLC (Lawyers Weekly No. 11-04-0115, 9 pp.) (Terrence W. Boyle, J.) E.D.N.C.

Holding: Iraqi citizens, who are suing over shootings in Iraq by private U.S. citizens, lack standing to sue in federal court.

This case is remanded back to the N.C. state court from which it was removed.

Nonresident aliens may sue for injuries sustained outside the U.S. (1) when a specific statutory scheme contemplates such suits or (2) when there is a res located in the U.S. Berlin Democratic Club v. Rumsfeld, 410 F. Supp. 144 (D.D.C. 1976).

The nonresident alien plaintiffs before the court do not fall within either of the exceptions to the prudential bar on nonresident-alien standing. Plaintiffs are citizens and residents of Iraq suing for damages purportedly sustained in Iraq. Plaintiffs’ claims are governed not by any U.S. statute but by Iraqi tort law. Plaintiffs have had no contact with the U.S. other than their interactions abroad with private U.S. citizens.

Plaintiffs identify no federal statute giving rise to their claims that would confer standing. Plaintiffs instead cite N.C. cases interpreting N.C. law and holding that nonresident aliens are permitted to sue in North Carolina’s courts.

But North Carolina’s permissive policy of opening its courts to nonresident aliens does not, itself, confer standing on those same plaintiffs in federal court. State standing rules do not apply in federal court.

Since plaintiffs invoke no federal statute in support of their claims, they do not satisfy the “specific statutory scheme” exception under Berlin Democratic Club.

Nor is there a res within this court’s jurisdiction entitling plaintiffs to sue in this court. The res exception is satisfied where the subject of the dispute is property within the court’s jurisdiction.

Plaintiffs argue that the court should treat their alleged right to recovery – that is, the case itself – as a res for purposes of the Berlin Democratic Club res exception. Were the action itself treated as res, as plaintiffs propose, the court would have a res within its jurisdiction when any case was filed, and the exception would swallow the rule. A mere alleged right to recovery cannot be treated as a res.

Plaintiffs are nonresident aliens who lack standing to sue in this court. The court lacks subject matter jurisdiction over plaintiffs’ claims.

Whenever a federal court determines it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over a case that originated in state court and was removed to federal court, the federal court is bound by law to remand the case to the state court where the action originated. Based on the court’s finding that it lacks subject matter jurisdiction over the plaintiffs’ claims, the case is hereby remanded to Wake County Superior Court.

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