On July 24, 2020, the U.S. District for the District of Columbia addressed an interesting request under the Hague Abduction Convention. In the case of Stone v. U.S. Embassy Tokyo, et. al., Mr. Jack Stone sued the U.S. government to issue a passport for his first-born child. Subsequently, he amended his filing. In his Second Amended Complaint, he argued that his wife left the United States for Japan on November 11, 2018, with his child and without his consent, out of fear that she would be deported because the U.S. government had not issued her a visa, despite the Plaintiff submitting a Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) over a year prior. Mr. Stone then filed additional pleadings, which the court construed as a motion for leave to amend his Second Amended Complaint.
In the Third Amended Complaint, Mr. Stone requested his child’s return under the Hague Abduction Convention, an order compelling U.S. citizenship for his second-born child, a visa for his Wife, and tort damages against a U.S. Department of State official. At the time Mr. Stone filed his Third Amended Complaint, he was residing in Japan.
For our purposes, I will address Mr. Stone’s Hague Abduction request (or, more accurately, his motion for leave to amend his 2nd Amended Complaint to include a request to return his child using the Hague Abduction Convention). The U.S. District Court concluded Japan was the appropriate venue for Mr. Stone to pursue his Hague Abduction return request. Under ICARA, the U.S. implementing legislation, the aggrieved parent must file in the state or district court where the child is currently located (post-abduction). In other words, the child must be located within the court’s jurisdiction for the court to take action. Mr. Stone’s child is located in Japan. In the course of litigation, Mr. Stone apparently recognized that Japan was the appropriate venue, but indicated that he was unsuccessful in obtaining a return order from the Japanese authorities, claiming the authorities were “unwilling to help.” He, therefore, argued that his only recourse was to seek a return order from a U.S. court. “The Court acknowledges the apparent unfairness of the situation but is powerless to remedy it, as it simply has no authority under ICARA to order the return of a child located abroad. Indeed, Plaintiff has not cited a case in which a court ordered a return under analogous circumstances. The Court will, therefore, deny as futile Plaintiff’s request to amend his complaint to include an order for return under the Convention.”
The Court did evaluate Mr. Stone’s request to amend his 2nd Amended Complaint on the other bases and did grant leave to amend in part.