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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Gee v Hendroffe, 2013 WL 5375294 (D.Nev.) [South Africa] [Federal & State Judicial Remedies] [Jurisdiction] [Venue]

In Gee v Hendroffe, 2013 WL 5375294 (D.Nev.) Petitioner filed his Petition for return of Children and Motion Warrant in Lieu of Habeas Corpus in the United States District Court for the District of Nevada on August 30, 2013. The court scheduled a hearing for September 4, 2013. At the hearing on September 4, 2013, the Court raised the issue of whether it had subject matter jurisdiction over this litigation. The Court ordered Petitioner to meet his burden of establishing jurisdiction and ordered Respondent to provide her airline ticket or other evidence to her Nevada attorney, which indicated when she left Las Vegas, Nevada, for Malaysia.

Respondent filed a Motion for Dismissal in which she stated that she was not served with the Petition until September 4, 2013, and that she and the children left the state of Nevada on August 27, 2013, and left the United States on August 31, 2013. Respondent attached an email from Petitioner's counsel's office which informed her of the September 4, 2013, hearing and provided her with a copy of the Petition as well as this Court's order setting the hearing. Respondent also attached a debit card statement for a card which was used in California as early as August 27, 2013, and copies of the airline tickets she and the two children used to fly from Los Angeles, California to Malaysia on August 31, 2013.

Shortly after Respondent filed her motion on September 5, 2013, Petitioner filed a Motion Under Hague Convention for Entry of a Temporary Restraining Order and a  UCCJEA Warrant. Attached to his motion was an Affidavit signed by Respondent and notarized in Las Vegas, Nevada at 10:30 a.m. on August 30, 2013. On September 6, 2013, prior to the hearing, Respondent filed a Declaration of Yasmin Acevedo, a friend of Respondent since 2011, who lived in Las Vegas. According to the Declaration, Ms. Acevedo accompanied Respondent and the two children to California on August 27, 2013, where they visited some family friends and local attractions. Thereafter, Ms. Acevedo represented, on August 30, 2013, Respondent returned to Las Vegas to attend to some legal matters while she and the children stayed in California. Ms. Acevedo concluded that she accompanied Respondent and the Children to the airport for their departure to Malaysia.

The Court set an evidentiary hearing concerning jurisdiction for October 8, 2013, and ordered all parties, including the children, present in person at the hearing.

The district court pointed out that any person seeking to initiate judicial proceedings under the Convention for the return of a child or for arrangements for organizing or securing the effective exercise of rights of access to a child may do so by commencing a civil action by filing a petition for the relief sought in any court which has jurisdiction of such action and which is authorized to exercise its jurisdiction in the place where the child is located at the time the petition is filed. 42 U.S.C.A. § 11603.

The Ninth Circuit has recognized, "located" has a particular meaning in the context of ICARA, distinct from "a traditional residency test." Holder v. Holder,305 F.3d 854, 869 (9th Cir.2002) n. 5; citing Lops v. Lops, 140 F.3d 927, 937 (11th Cir.1998). It means "the place where the abducted children are discovered," and is more equivalent to the concept of physical presence. Here, the evidence showed that once Petitioner discovered that the Children were in Las Vegas, and that Respondent likely did not intend to return to South Africa with the children, he promptly filed his petition for return of the children. Under the Holder/Lops common sense definition of "located" and in light of the Convention's purpose of providing an "expeditious avenue" for seeking return of
children, this was sufficient to establish jurisdiction. Respondent's contention that the children were in California with Ms. Acevedo on or around August 27, 2013, was irrelevant because Petitioner had no knowledge of that alleged trip, the children were discovered in Las Vegas, and by Respondents own admission, the children had been located in Las Vegas from July 11 until at least August 27. Further, the Court found that Respondent's argument that the children were in California was not credible. The debit card statements provided by Respondent had no name attached to the card and the affidavit of Ms. Acevedo did not come until after Petitioner provided proof that Respondent was in Nevada on August 30, 2013. Additionally, the legal documents that Respondent signed and notarized in Law Vegas on August 30, 2013, were documents for an Australian legal action, and could have been signed and notarized in California as well. The Court found that the evidence showed that the children were located in Nevada at the time the Petition was filed. Accordingly, the Court found that it had jurisdiction over this matter.

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