Monday, December 5, 2016
Smedley v Smedley, 2014 WL 11996390 (E.D. North Carolina, 2014)[Germany] [Federal & State Judicial Remedies] [Comity][Petition granted]
In Smedley v Smedley, 2014 WL 11996390 (E.D. North Carolina, 2014) the District Court granted the petition of the mother, Daniela Smedley (“Daniela”) for the return of her two children, who had been retained in the United States by their father, Mark Smedley. On July 13, 2011, Daniela, A.H.S. and G.A.S. returned to Bamberg Germany where the children were born and remained there with them. Mark filed a petition under the Hague Convention in Germany for the return of the children to the United States which was denied, ostensibly on the basis that returning them to the United States would expose them to a serious risk of physical or psychological harm. The District Court of Bamberg found that one of the exceptions in Article 13 precluded the children’s return to the United States. It also appeared that the District Court of Bamberg found that neither child wanted to return to the United States. Mark appealed the decision. The Bamberg Higher Regional Court rejected Mark’s appeal. This proceeding was commenced after Mark refused to return the children to Germany after visitation in the United States. The district court rejected Marks argument that it should disregard the Bamberg Higher Regional Court’s findings and conclusions, find that Daniela’s retention of the children in Germany in August 2011 was wrongful, and therefore conclude that the United States was the children’s habitual residence. The district court observed that the Fourth Circuit has recognized that in determining the amount of deference due to a foreign court’s decision, “ ‘judgments rendered in a foreign nation are not entitled to the protection of full faith and credit.’ ” Miller, 240 F.3d at 400 (quoting Diorinou, 237 F.3d at 142-43). Nevertheless, “ ‘American courts will normally accord considerable deference to foreign adjudications as a matter of comity,’ ” and “ ‘comity is at the heart of the Hague Convention.’ ” Despite American courts’ usual practice of according considerable deference to foreign adjudications, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that a court may properly decline to extend comity to a foreign court’s Hague petition determination “if it clearly misinterprets the Hague Convention, contravenes the Convention’s fundamental premises or objectives, or fails to meet a minimum standard of reasonableness.” Asvestas, 580 F.3d at 1014. In Asvestas, the Ninth Circuit found that a Greek court’s analysis of a prior Hague petition “misapplie[d] the provisions of the Convention, relie[d] on unreasonable factual findings, and contradict[ed] the principles and objectives of the Hague Convention.” After reviewing the translation of the opinion of the Bamberg Higher Regional Court, the court did not find that “ it clearly misinterprets the Hague Convention, contravenes the Convention’s fundamental premises or objectives, or fails to meet a minimum standard of reasonableness.” Asvestas, 580 F.3d at 1014. The court, therefore, accorded comity to the opinion.