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VAN CAUWENBERGHE V. BARD, 486 U. S. 517 (1988)

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U.S. Supreme Court

Van Cauwenberghe v. Bard, 486 U.S. 517 (1988)

Van Cauwenberghe v. Bard

No. 87-336

Argued March 21, 1988

Decided June 13, 1988

486 U.S. 517


The courts of appeals have jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1291 of appeals "from all final decisions of the district courts." Under Cohen v. Beneficial Industrial Loan Corp., 337 U. S. 541, and Coopers & Lybrand v. Livesay, 437 U. S. 463, a "collateral order" which does not actually end the district court litigation is nevertheless considered to be final and immediately appealable under § 1291 if, inter alia, it resolves an important issue completely separate from the merits of the action and is effectively unreviewable on appeal from a final judgment. Petitioner, a resident of Belgium, was indicted in the Central District of California for fraudulently inducing respondent to lend money to a California real estate partnership engaged in renovating a Kansas City townhouse complex. While on a trip to Switzerland, petitioner was arrested under the applicable extradition treaty and extradited to Los Angeles. One week before his criminal trial commenced, respondent filed a civil suit against petitioner in the same District, asserting various claims arising out of the defaulted loan. About two weeks after his sentencing following his conviction on the criminal charges, petitioner was served with the civil summons and complaint. The District Court summarily denied petitioner's motions to dismiss, which were based upon the argument that petitioner was immune from civil process because his presence in the United States resulted from extradition, and upon forum non conveniens grounds. The Court of Appeals dismissed petitioner's appeal for lack of jurisdiction, citing Cohen, supra, and Mitchell v. Forsyth, 472 U. S. 511.

Held: Neither an order denying a motion to dismiss on the ground that an extradited person is immune from civil process, nor an order denying such a motion on forum non conveniens grounds, is a collateral order subject to immediate appeal as a final judgment under § 1291. Pp. 486 U. S. 521-530.

(a) Assuming, without deciding, that the "principle of specialty," see United States v. Rauscher, 119 U. S. 407, immunizes petitioner from civil service of process while his presence in this country is compelled by extradition, petitioner's claim is nevertheless effectively reviewable on appeal from final judgment, and thus is not immediately appealable under the collateral order doctrine. Unlike the qualified immunity claim chanroblesvirtualawlibrary

Page 486 U. S. 518

considered in Mitchell, supra, the "essence" of petitioner's claim of immunity under the principle of specialty is not a right not to stand trial, which would be irretrievably lost absent an immediate appeal. The principle of specialty operates to ensure that the receiving state does not abuse the extraditing state's extradition processes, and the conduct of a civil trial does not significantly implicate the reviewing state's obligation in that regard, since the state does not bring its coercive power to bear in such circumstances, but simply provides a forum for the resolution of a private dispute. Moreover, the defense of a civil suit does not significantly restrict a defendant's liberty, since he cannot be subjected to pretrial detention or required to post bail, and is not even compelled to be present at trial. Furthermore, a right not to stand trial is not entailed in the mere assertion that the district court lacks personal jurisdiction because of immunity from service of process. The right involved in this challenge must be characterized as the right not to be subject to a binding judgment, which may be effectively vindicated following final judgment. Pp. 486 U. S. 522-527.

(b) The order denying the motion to dismiss on forum non conveniens grounds does not fall within the collateral order doctrine, since the convenience-of-the-forum question is not completely separate from the merits of the action. Although the determination of that question may not require significant inquiry into the facts and legal issues in some cases, in the main, a district court ruling on such a motion will generally become entangled in the merits of the case in assessing such questions as the relative ease of access to the sources of proof, the availability of witnesses, and the actual locus of the alleged culpable conduct. Thus, such determinations are unsuited for immediate appeal as of right under § 1291. This conclusion is fortified by the availability of interlocutory review under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(b) offorum non conveniens determinations in appropriate cases. Pp. 486 U. S. 527-530.


MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

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