Friday, April 17, 2015

Carlwig v. Carlwig (9th Cir. - April 17, 2015)

I'm confused.

I get that under the relevant child abduction treaty, federal courts sometimes have to wade into family law questions.  So while "Carlwig v. Carlwig" is a typical caption for a state court case, it's presence in the federal reporter isn't so crazy.

But I'm not sure I understand the Ninth Circuit's disposition of that case today.  Which reads, in full:

"Sarah Carlwig appeals the decision and order of the district court sending A.L.C. and E.R.S.C., dual-national American and Swedish children, to Sweden pursuant to the Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the “Convention”), and its implementing legislation, the International Child Abduction Remedies Act, 22 U.S.C.A. §§ 9001–11. We have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291.

We hereby vacate the portion of the district court’s order, Carlwig v. Carlwig (in re A.L.C.), 16 F. Supp 3d 1075 (C.D. Cal 2014), concerning the habitual residence of E.R.S.C.


My understanding is that federal appellate courts review judgments, not reasons.  The district court ordered the kids sent to Sweden.  The Ninth Circuit doesn't seem to change that judgment.  So I do not understand why (or how) the Ninth Circuit "vacates" a portion of the underlying opinion.

The Ninth Circuit could write its own opinion, of course, in which it said that it affirmed the decision below but resolved the residence of one of the kids the other way.  Or could say that it was affirming but not deciding (because it didn't have to) where one of the kids lived.

But I'm not sure that appellate review encompasses "vacating" portions of an opinion's reasoning below.  I'd have thought (again) that review is of the judgment.

Maybe I'm wrong.