December 12, 2017
appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division,
Bergen County, Docket No. L-3502-15.
Roffe argued the cause for appellant (Saul Roffe, attorney;
Sharon Ben-Haim, on the pro se briefs).
Reeves Anderson (Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, LLP) of
the New York bar, admitted pro hac vice, argued the cause for
respondents (Hartmann Doherty Rosa Berman & Bulbulia,
LLC, and Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, LLP, attorneys;
Mark A. Berman and Kevin Sullivan, on the brief).
S. Yelin (United States Department of Justice) of the New
York bar, admitted pro hac vice, argued the cause for amicus
curiae United States of America (Paul J. Fishman, United
States Attorney, and J. Andrew Ruymann, Assistant United
States Attorney, attorneys; Benjamin C. Mizer, Principal
Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Lewis S. Yelin, and Sharon
Swingle (United States Department of Justice) of the District
of Columbia bar, admitted pro hac vice, on the brief).
Judges Reisner, Gilson, and Mayer.
question presented is whether New Jersey courts have
jurisdiction to hear civil claims against foreign officials
when the United States, through the State Department, has
issued a suggestion of immunity (SOI) determining that those
officials are entitled to immunity. We hold that New Jersey
courts are bound by an SOI when, as here, the State
Department's determination of conduct-based immunity is
premised on the officials acting within the scope of their
duties for a foreign sovereign nation. Therefore, we affirm
the December 9, 2016 order dismissing plaintiff's civil
complaint against six Israeli rabbinical judges and an
official of the Rabbinical Religious Courts Administration of
Israel (Rabbinical Courts of Israel).
appeal arises out of a protracted divorce and custody dispute
between plaintiff, Sharon Ben-Haim, and his wife, Oshrat. The
divorce and custody disputes were litigated in actions filed
initially in Israel and later in New Jersey. The suit giving
rise to this appeal is a separate action filed by plaintiff
in New Jersey. In that action, plaintiff sought to assert
civil causes of action against the Rabbinical Courts of
Israel, six Israeli rabbinical judges, and an official of the
Rabbinical Courts of Israel.
and Oshrat are Israeli citizens and were married in Israel in
2 008. Before their marriage, they lived in New Jersey and
after their wedding they returned to continue living in New
Jersey. They have one child, a daughter, who was born in 2
009, in New Jersey.
March 2010, the family traveled together to Israel. Shortly
after arriving in Israel, Oshrat filed for divorce in an
Israeli rabbinical court. Rabbinical courts are part of
Israel's legal system and have jurisdiction over divorces
between Jewish citizens of Israel. Israel also has secular
family courts, and the family and rabbinical courts have
parallel jurisdiction over issues concerning support, child
custody, and division of property.
Oshrat initiated the divorce action in the rabbinical court,
she also obtained a ne exeat order, which prohibited
plaintiff from leaving Israel until the divorce was
finalized. Thereafter, a rabbinical court lifted that order
and allowed plaintiff, by himself, to return to New Jersey.
Oshrat and the daughter remained in Israel.
August 2010, plaintiff filed an action in the Israeli family
court, seeking the return of his daughter to New Jersey under
the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International
Child Abduction (Hague Convention). The Israeli family court
ruled in ...