Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Aghaian v. Minassian (Cal. Ct. App. - Feb. 17, 2015)

You'd ordinarily think that a lawsuit between a citizen of Country X and another citizen of Country X regarding the ownership of property in Country X would be decided in . . . Country X.

Particularly when, as here, one of the defendants resides in Country X and isn't subject to jurisdiction in California.  The fact that a California tribunal wouldn't have the power to change the ownership of the disputed property -- located (again) in Country X -- would seem to lock things down.

Our fancy legal name for that is forum non conveniens.  We generally stay or dismiss lawsuits filed in our forum in that situation in favor of alternative litigation in Country X.

Except when Country X is Iran.

The Court of Appeal notes that Iran might look like a regular civil law country.  But it's exceptionally displeased that -- as is undoubtedly the case -- the judiciary in that country is heavily influenced by the position of the government, and probably doesn't like lawsuits by people (as here) who fled Iran after the overthrow of the Shah and are now trying to get that property back.

Plus there's the fact that the plaintiffs here aren't Muslim, and that one of them (gasp!) is a woman.

There's substantial reason to believe that Iranian courts aren't going to like that.  Especially when those tribunals have an express rule that the testimony of a woman is only worth half that of a man.

Iran can, of course, have whatever type of judiciary it'd like.  But when the remedy there amounts to "no remedy at all," we can refuse to dismiss lawsuits on forum non conveniens grounds.

As the Court of Appeal does here.  Reversing the trial court.