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Castlewood Products, L.L.C. v. Norton
United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
365 F.3d 1076 (2004)
The United States and Brazil were both parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (the convention), a treaty that listed endangered species and regulated their trade. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) prohibited trade in violation of the convention and authorized the secretary of the interior (the secretary) to enforce the ESA. Brazil included bigleaf mahogany in Appendix III of the convention, which required Brazil’s management authority, known as IBAMA, to issue an export permit prior to any export of bigleaf mahogany based on IBAMA’s satisfaction that the specimen was not illegally obtained in Brazil. Certain bigleaf-mahogany trade was banned in Brazil, but illegal logging continued. The convention allowed signatory countries to adopt more stringent enforcement measures than provided in the convention. Both Brazil and the United States had resolved to notify each other if the importing country had reason to believe that a listed species was being traded in contravention of a country’s laws. As delegated by the secretary, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) worked with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to enforce the ESA and the convention. In 2001, APHIS detained certain shipments of bigleaf mahogany originating from Brazil at American ports of entry because the accompanying export permits were not endorsed. APHIS received information from IBAMA indicating that IBAMA was not assured that the shipments were lawfully obtained but had been judicially compelled to permit the shipments. IBAMA and FWS exchanged correspondence, and eventually APHIS released five shipments for which a legal chain of custody was established but continued to detain other shipments for which a legal acquisition could not be confirmed by IBAMA or a final Brazilian judicial decision. Castlewood Products LLC and other companies (the companies) (plaintiffs) sued the government (defendant) to compel delivery of their shipments. The district court granted summary judgment to the government. The companies appealed, arguing that the shipments were unlawfully detained because the only applicable requirement was a valid foreign-export permit.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Edwards, J.)
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