Venezuela v.Helmerich & Payne International

Posted: January 1, 2017 by beguide in Uncategorized

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WHAT HAPPENED:  Venezuela (the country) and Helmerich & Payne International (some business) entered into an oil-drilling agreement that went to hell for reasons that are not important.  Following the dissolution of the business agreement, HPI sued Venezuela under an exception to the Foreign Sovereign Immunity’s Act.  Venezuela moved to dismiss HPI’s Complaint on grounds that HPI did not state a colorable claim under existing law.

WHY IS THIS BEFORE THE SUPREME COURT:  When filing a civil complaint, the Court has a few gate keeping steps to ensure that your civil action is not frivolous.  You often hear  in the news about silly lawsuits being filed (like people suing the Suicide Squad movie for not portraying the Joker correctly), and this is how the Court removes those lawsuits early so as to not waste the Court’s time, the parties’ resources, and Jared Leto’s dignity.  The question for this case is whether or not HPI’s Complaint, which appears on its face to be fairly frivolous, should make it passed the Court’s earliest stage of review.  HPI argues that the federal standard is not so exacting as to deny HPI’s claim at this juncture, whereas Venezuela also thinks that Suicide Squad was terrible believes that the policy behind foreign immunity should compel the Court to take a harsher view of the pleadings at an early stage.

WHAT ARE THE RAMIFICATIONS – If a foreign Country seizes your oil-drilling equipment and refuses to give it back, this case would allow you to annoy them in Federal Court easier.  On a broader note, access to federal court is an interesting issue that is being litigated at lower levels of the federal system, where justices are more proactive in tightening the standards for domestic litigants seeking to use federal court as a venue for their lawsuits.  The foreign aspect of this case likely makes those concerns somewhat attenuated here, but it’s an interesting harbinger for federal discrimination lawsuits under Title IX or the Fair Housing Act, where pleading standards could restrict a private citizen’s ability to sue the government.

ROOT FOR VENEZUELA IF:  you believe the most binding precedent here is the seminal case of Finders v. Keepers.

ROOT FOR HPI IF:  you believe the best way to beat a bully is to slowly waste their time and resources in long protracted litigation until they finally give up and let you play with  your precious oil-drilling equipment.

PREDICTION:  Helmerich & Payne 6-2.

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