Adventure Lawyer’s March 28, 2019 Adventure Law Quiz: Southeast Asia

Thursday, March 28, 2019: Southeast Asia Quiz

To take the quiz, click below:

The March 8, 2019 Weekly Adventure Lawyer Quiz: Southeast Asia

tahiland

Rules: The person or people with the highest score (who live in Florida) will win a small gift from my law firm Junnier Law & Research, P.A. Don’t use the internet to help you find answers, that’s only cheating yourself out  of the fun, and perhaps others, out of their prize. If you take the quiz multiple times, only your first score will be recognized. If you wish to challenge an answer or the scoring, please message my Adventure Lawyer page on Facebook.  Quiz ends on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at 11:55 PM, EST.

Estate Planning for Dogs

adult black pug

Photo by Charles on Pexels.com

There is an anecdote about a millionaire lonely widow who disinherited her spoiled children in favor of leaving her fortune to her dog. Fortunately, for all of Florida’s bad sons and daughters who don’t visit as much as they should, Florida Law prohibits such a practice. As dear as our pets are to us, in the blind eyes of the law, pets are personal property and cannot inherit property themselves.

This, however, does not necessarily mean leaving your furry friend empty-pawed. The solution is found in Florida Statute 736.0408, “Trust for Care of an Animal.” Though probably more practical for ensuring your commercial racing horse spends his elder days out to stud, this provision can also protect the family pet.

The Animal Trust allows an owner (or the pet’s human, if you absolutely must describe it in such terms) to set aside reasonable financial resources for the animal’s lifetime care. The trust may also appoint a caretaker if the owner dies or becomes incapacitated, and a trustee that ensures the money is solely used for the benefit of the animal.

The trust will automatically dissolve upon the death of the animal, with the remaining funds returned to the owner if alive, or to other declared beneficiaries if the owner has also passed.

When creating the trust it is important not to get carried away, as a court will reduce the dedicated funds if they are deemed more than necessary for the care of the pet.

Now tell Fido to retrieve your slippers or else you’ll cut him out of your estate plan!

The Myth of the Death Tax

Treasury
In 1789, Benjamin Franklin famously wrote to physicist Jean-Baptiste Leroy “‘In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” It is only natural, then, that Americans are adverse to experiencing both at the same time.
 
The “death tax” is what some angry people contemptuously call the Estate Tax, defined by 26 U.S. Code Chapter 11–and fortunately for them, and 99.99% of all Americans, their estates will never have to pay it.
 
For 2019, an estate tax filling is only required for estates with gross assets and prior taxable gifts in excess of–wait for it–$11,400,000.
 
If you are among the elite few for whom this is actually an issue, you are definitely the kind of client I want. Contact me and I’ll meet you anywhere, anytime to have your business!
 
I’ll even fill out IRS Form 706 for you! 🙂
 
For the rest of you, consider a pause next time before grabbing a “Tax is Theft” placard–and taking to our publicly funded streets.
 

U.S. Birthright Citizenship, the Diplomatic Immunity Exception, and the New Jersey born, University of Alabama Student turned ISIS Recruit, Hoda Muthana

International media has spotlighted the controversial case of Hoda Muthana–a New Jersey born University of Alabama student turned ISIS recruit. Having become disenchanted with her adopted extremist ideology, and now being responsible for her 18-month-old infant, Ms. Muthana wants to return to her native U.S. home and face justice for her criminal acts.

The U.S. Department of State is demurring her request for a passport, passage, and prosecution, and is further insisting she was never a citizen of the United States at all. Her father has filed suit on her behalf citing that she was born in the United States, has been issued two passports by the United States, and has never had her citizenship previously questioned.

Noting that the Department of State is not arguing Ms. Muthana renounced her citizenship during her odyssey of terrorist accessory to Damascus, outside observers are understandably confused.

For reasonably archaic reasons explained below, this case could be decided on one question of fact: Did her father, Ahmed Ali Muthana, have diplomatic immunity in the United States at the time of her birth?

To answer this question I will define “birthright citizenship,” explain the Parental Diplomatic Immunity Exception, and conclude by applying the law as it exists today to the facts of this case.

Birthright Citizenship Defined

The United States is among few countries in the world that offers “birthright citizenship.” The origin of this right is Section 1 of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which in part declares: “All persons born . . . in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States.” The general rule, therefore, is if a person is born within the physical territory of the United States (including U.S. territories, and in many cases, overseas U.S. embassies, and U.S. military bases) that person is automatically a citizen of the Land of the Free.

If a suicide bomber births a baby en route to her high profile target at a D.C. children’s hospital, that baby enjoys an unequivocal right to U.S. citizenship, no matter how deplorable a parents’ behavior.

The Parental Diplomatic Immunity Exception to Birthright Citizenship

There are, though there is no reason any normal person would have ever heard of them, exceptions to birthright citizenship.

The exception relevant to this case: If the child is born physically in the United States, but is shielded by diplomatic immunity through the diplomatic status of a parent, the child is not “subject to the jurisdiction of the United States” and is therefore not entitled to birthright citizenship.

Therefore, if Ahmed Ali Muthana, a former Yemeni diplomat to the United Nations, enjoyed diplomatic immunity at the time of his daughter’s birth, the government’s argument goes, then Ms. Muthana has never been, and continues not to be, a U.S. citizen.     

Hoda Muthana was born after her father ceased to be a diplomat, but before the United States was notified that he was no longer a diplomat.

Ahmed Ali Muthana was a Yemini diplomat to the U.N., living in the United States (for International Law purposes, the country a diplomat lives in is called the “host country” and the country he represents is the “origin country.”)  As a Yemini diplomat, he was shielded from the jurisdiction of his host country (the United States) by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations (1961)–more casually referred to as “diplomatic immunity.” His term of office ended on September 1, 1994, more than a month before, his daughter, Hoda Muthana, was born on October 28, 1994. The U.S. Mission to the U.N. was notified that Mr. Muthana was no longer a diplomat on February 6, 1995–more than three months after his daughter was born.

The question of law is this: Does an outgoing diplomat lose jurisdictional immunity from a host country at the time the diplomat’s origin country (in this case Yemen) ceases to recognize his diplomatic status, or at the time the host country is given notice that he has ceased to be a diplomat?

There is a necessary prequal question to this that requires the reader to journey into the obscure abyss of transnational conflict of law: What if Yemen ceased to recognize Mr. Muthana as having diplomatic immunity on September 1, 1994, but the United States, for its own jurisdictional purposes, recognized it through February 6, 1995.?

U.S. courts, in determining jurisdiction at the time of Hoda Muthana’s birth, will apply the Law of the United States even if they conflict with the Law of Yemen.

Absent superseding language in the Vienna Convention or a relevant treaty to which both the U.S. and Yemen are signatories that postdates any contradictory U.S. federal statute, a U.S. court would use U.S. Law to determine the date of cessation of diplomatic immunity.

As the reader may guess, a court in Yemen may find it more convenient to rely on the Law of Yemen.

(Please note that, though beyond the scope of this Essay, there are frequent circumstances when U.S. courts will apply the laws of other jurisdictions to domestic proceedings.)

In determining U.S. Law, a court would look for guidance in the language of U.S. treaties and statutes. If a court finds relevant direction from both a treaty and a statute, U.S. Constitutional Law requires the court to apply the language of the treaty or statute that came into effect later in time. (Federal statutes and treaties are coequal in authority, so if one contradicts the other, the law created later governs as if it repealed the contradictory language of the other.)

U.S. law likely terminates diplomatic immunity at the time a diplomat leaves his official capacity as recognized by the origin country.

The Vienna Convention, relevant treaties and federal statutes, seem silent on the question of the effect of a delay of notice to a host country on a former diplomat’s diplomatic immunity. Absent authoritative caselaw, international custom, or a history of relevant behavior between the U.S. and other Vienna Convention signatories, courts will reluctantly consider public policy.

Public policy strongly supports the view that the U.S. retroactively terminates its recognition of diplomatic immunity at the time a diplomat leaves his official capacity as recognized by the origin country.  This is necessary to avoid the potential of the absurd result outlined below.

When discussing the subject of diplomatic immunity the question often arises: “What if a diplomat goes on a killing spree in the host country?”

Since diplomatic immunity is a right held by the origin country, and not a right held by the diplomat, the origin country can, and often does, waive the diplomatic immunity of a wayward agent abroad.  It cannot do this, however, if the unstable agent is not actually recognized by the origin country as having diplomatic status.

Let’s assume that Yemen stopped recognizing Mr. Muthana’s diplomatic immunity in September of 1994 but that the U.S. generously extended it’s recognition to February 6, 1995 when it received notice of his ceasing to be a diplomat several months prior.  With Yemen unable to waive a right it does not acknowledge exists, Mr. Muthana would, arguably, be unprosecutable for any bad behavior in the United States during the interval.

To avoid such an absurd result, the U.S. would need to recognize the date Mr. Muthana left his role as diplomat as the effective date of his loss of diplomatic immunity whenever the U.S. was served of actual notice that he was no longer recognized by Yemen as a diplomat.

Such is the policy that should be followed whether a recently-ex-diplomat kills a baby, or procreates a new one into existence on U.S. territory.

Since Hoda Muthana’s father did not have diplomatic immunity at the time of her birth, she was both born in the United States and subject to its jurisdiction making her a citizen with the right to return home and subject to U.S. prosecution.

This case is more straightforward than commentators and pundits argue. U.S. law likely requires the Department of State to recognize Ahmed Ali Muthana as loosing his diplomatic immunity on September 1, 1994–more than a month before his daughter was born in New Jersey–making both him and her subject to the jurisdiction of the United States at the time of her birth. The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution therefore bestows upon her birthright citizenship which, absent a revocation of citizenship, survives her treasonous behavior.  She and her child are entitled to admission to the United States where she would be immediately taken into custody for her crimes.

Ironically, should it be determined that she is not a citizen of the United States, while she would effectively become a stateless individual, the U.S. would also be giving up jurisdiction to put her on trial for what would otherwise be her crimes against the United States.

Her practical alternatives are therefore these: Be imprisoned in the Land of the Free, or just be free.

A Gentle Encounter with an Alligator at Wakulla Springs State Park Trail

So if you get eaten, you'll also get fined!

So if you get eaten, you’ll also get fined!

Alligators are a common Florida attraction.

Growing up near the Everglades my friends and I could ride our bikes westward on Wiles Road until it abruptly terminated into a watery ditch dividing our civilization from their 1.5 million acre wet-wonderland of mangroves, sawgrass, stalking panthers, and the occasional 18 foot Boa that was once a pet to an owner unknowledgeable that baby snakes too grow up. At the apex of midday, they would lazily sunbathe on the distant bank totally unimpressed and disinterested in our human presence.

Short of doing something objectively stupid–say diving in blindly splashing vaguely toward their young while screaming Marco Polo–we were never on their diet.

Driving from Fort Lauderdale to Fort Meyers on Alligator Alley there are stops in the desolate nowhere of the 137 mile segment of highway where you can  stretch your legs and snap a photo of a malicious-enough looking hyper-predator as it also eyes you immobile from just a thirty-feet gulf of canal and indifference.

Every Florida Zoo has one as do many gas stations near Orlando. Florida is home of Gatorland and several Native American reservations where you watch non-Native American actors practice the decidedly non-Native American tradition of alligator wrestling. (Alligator wrestling was touted to Native American tribes as an exciting, albeit, inauthentic, way of generating revenue–prior to the more lucrative, but equally inauthentic, tradition of gaming.)

As my friend and I had toured Wakulla Springs by boat, we had just that morning viewed a half dozen alligators separated from us by the hull of our boat, twenty feet of water, and their severe disinterest in humans not actively teasing them.

A view from a Wakulla Springs State Park riverboat.

A view from a Wakulla Springs State Park riverboat.

Learn about how to spot your own personal alligator here:

Other alligator sightings:

But despite having seen dozens of alligators in my time, there had always been some protective barrier–a fence, a canal, a boat, or even just simply a large gathering of people.

I had abandoned my unenergetic friend at the Wakulla Springs Lodge to hike part of the linear six mile Wakulla Springs Trail as I wanted to see the forested confluence of the Wakulla River with the Sally Ward Spring. Upon my desolate arrival there was the obligatory “Warning Alligators” sign. I slowly crossed the bridge looking toward the banks and upriver. Nothing. I allowed my body to serve as a mosquito and fly buffet for a few minutes longer–still nothing.

Nuts.

I hiked another couple of miles before turning around. When I reappeared at the river crossing I saw a distant floating log. I paused on the shallow bridge now devoid of bugs and other annoyances and fantasized that I was being offered a lonely alligator encounter all my own in the middle of the north Florida woods.

Then I noticed the log had quite sharp teeth and a thrashing tail. Either the arborous victims of the logging industry had evolved into shape shifters and were seeking revenge on humankind, or I was being offered a lonely alligator encounter all my own in the middle of the north Florida woods.

The alligator then noticed me, and turned toward me at an accelerated rate of speed.

I did what anyone would have done–I retrieved my Samsung and proceeded to record a two-minute YouTube video to be followed by several pictures where I leaned into the lethal creature as if attempting to offer notes and stage direction.

Quickly it identified me as either being too big or too stupid to attack and tried to hide underwater.

The alligator tried to hide underwater in one of the cleanest springs in the world. It didn't work.

The alligator tried to hide underwater in one of the cleanest springs in the world. It didn’t work.

Eventually it needed air and allowed it’s head and front legs to float buoyantly to the surface.

A fresh breath of air.

A fresh breath of air.

I interpreted this series of movements–minding it’s own business, noticing me staring and wading over to investigate, strategically estimating my size, hiding, and now remaining still in the hopes that my sight was based upon movement like his Jurassic cousin–as this: “You scare me. Please go away.”

I smiled into it’s dark eyes, whispered “thank you,” and walked calmly away with the totally irrational   feeling of having communed with nature.

Ready to attack--Wakulla Springs State Park Trail

Ready to attack–Wakulla Springs State Park Trail

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Irish Citizens Abroad Returning Home to Vote for Marriage Equality

Ireland is hugely predicted to vote "yes" in today's constitutional referendum on marriage equality.

Ireland is hugely predicted to vote “yes” in today’s constitutional referendum on marriage equality.

Huge numbers of Irish citizens are returning from abroad to vote “yes” in today’s constitutional referendum on marriage equality. Is it just because they want to be there for a historical moment?

Maybe, but also, probably because that is the only way they can vote. In Ireland, a voter must vote in person and be named on the official registry of voters.

There are exceptions for military, national guardsman, diplomats and their spouses, whom are eligible to vote by mail. Potentially also eligible are people with disabilities, students studying away from home, people who work abroad, prisoners (yes, prisoners can vote in Ireland), and residents of hospitals and nursing homes.

Those living abroad are ineligible to vote because their names are not on the official registry of voters. Thus, they have to return “home” to vote.

Another tidbit U.S. citizen’s may find interesting, certain categories of non-citizens are able to vote in specific elections. Non-citizen residents can vote in local elections. British citizens may vote at Dáil elections (lower house of Irish Parliament), European elections (such as elections for European Parliament) and local elections. E.U. citizens can participate in European elections and local elections.

If you happen to be reading this and you are Irish, in the U.S., not only don’t U.S. citizens have to vote in person, political parties and candidates actively encourage “early voting” (limited voting stations sometimes open weeks in advance of the official “election day.”) and vote-by-mail, a program which is open to any U.S. citizen and also begins weeks in advance of the official “election day.” The reason for this is it allows political parties and candidates to track who had voted and concentrate further messaging toward those known to have not yet voted. The reason voters like it is because it allows them more flexibility in how and when they vote. Conversely, many political activists wait to vote in person on election day because then they continue to get campaign mailers until the day of the election and thereby know what the opposition is messaging.

Residents of most U.S. territories may also vote in U.S. elections provided they reside in the U.S. at the time of the election. Anybody convicted of a felony may not vote in any election until their civil rights have been restored. In some jurisdictions this happens automatically upon a prisoner’s completion of sentence (including non-incarceration probation and payment of fines and restitution) and in others there is a formalized application process.

Non-citizens are ineligible to vote in all elections without exception. The mere notion of such an idea might make a very socially conservative’s head explode.

To learn more about voting in Ireland you can visit here.

A Picture of a Bench from My First Trip to a Conflict Zone

Latin Bridge in Sarajevo

Latin Bridge in Sarajevo

My first trip to a conflict zone was to Serbia and Bosnia in 1999. This bench, located on the Latin Bridge in Sarajevo, commemorates the location where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated on June 28, 1914, the immediate cause of World War I. The historical plaque that had been attached to the bench to explain its significance had been recently stolen because it was written in Cyrillic and also because, as the gunman was considered a hero at the time of the assassination, the plaque was rather laudatory in nature.  Today the plaque has been replaced with something more neutral and reads, in English, “From this place on June 18, 1914 Gavirlo Princip assassinated the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophia.”

Vegas Day Trips: Because, You Know, Vegas is Boring.

I briefly lived in Vegas back in 2000 to try a summer as a bellhop (it had been rumored that they can earn upwards of $2000 a week). Anyway, it didn't work out and I took no photos. So here is me standing in another desert which according to Googlemaps is a mere 6,947 Kilometers away. (It is taken a few miles east of the oasis village of Huacachina, Peru.)

I briefly lived in Vegas back in 2000 to try a summer as a bellhop (it had been rumored that they can earn upwards of $2000 a week). Anyway, it didn’t work out and I took no photos. So here is me standing in another desert which according to Googlemaps is a mere 6,947 Kilometers away. (It is taken a few miles east of the oasis village of Huacachina, Peru.)

Why be bored in the neon bathed glitz and glamor of Las Vegas, which merely offers circus and travel themed casinos, about a million restaurants, tower-rooftop nightclubs, hotel lobbies decorated with roller coasters, and storefronts selling expensive jewelry unaffordable to all but the rich (who get it for free in an award show gift bag anyway) when you can instead drive into the empty desert and explore abandoned towns, search for rational explanations for claimed paranormal activity, and, with a heroically oblivious confidence, wander into a disused mine in disrepair that managed to kill hundreds of experienced people even back when it was regularly maintained by engineers?

Whew! That was a long sentence. I should have never taken that creative writing course on James Joyce.

Anyway, here is a handy resource for when you want to abandon the strip for adventuring in abandoned towns. If you find any gold I want 10% and if you find any ghouls I want unfuzzy photographic evidence!

http://www.lvlg.com/lasvegas/attracts/ghstwns.htm

My Condolences to Singapore on the Passing of Founder Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew, founder and former Prime Minister of Singapore, 1923-2015

Lee Kuan Yew, founder and former Prime Minister of Singapore, 1923-2015

Dear Singapore:

The world has lost a giant today. A political strategist of the highest intellectual caliber, he is survived by three children, including current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong (who I have had the honor to meet), seven grandchildren, and the proud and prosperous island nation he founded, cultivated, and governed.

To all my Singaporean friends, colleagues, teachers, and leaders whom I have had the privilege to serve, learn, teach, research, organize, and bond over a meal or drink with, I offer my deepest heartfelt grief, sadness, and respects on the passing of your nation’s founder, Minster Mentor Lee Kuan Yew.

Minister Lee was an iconoclast with a vision to turn a small, poor, vulnerable and recently occupied island into an economic powerhouse with respect for the rule of law, gender equality, religious tolerance, and ethnic harmony.

While there will always be debate about his means–he used both carrot and stick to bring and retain power, authority, and order–there can be little reasonable debate about the ends. While there is a wealth gap (as there is in the country where I write this and almost everywhere else in the world), and an odd clause in our countries’ bilateral free trade agreement requiring Singapore to legalize chewing gum for “medicinal” purposes, where once were a collection of sleepy undeveloped villages–like the ones that remain today in nearby countries which are presently embroiled in political and religious conflict and with even more pervasive economic troubles–today is a multi-cultured cosmopolitan metropolis where CEOs of banks pick up their chicken rice from the same stall as the migrant workers who built your city-state at a wage (albeit with unequal bargaining power) they negotiated. Literacy is high (in multiple languages) and distributed without discrimination. The government is transparent and is quickly responsive to its citizens (though they encourage them to voice their grievances in a rather controlled and courteous manner suspicious to those in some other wealthy, stable nations).

Though he has left this world, he has left Singapore with a hugely gifted, talented, and potentially more liberal son in Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong. Under his stewardship, I am certain investors, nations, foreign talent, and all of Singaporeans can look forward to continued stability, prosperity, and the always achingly slow, but inevitable evolution toward liberalization of civil and political human rights.

As the only lawyer (that I know of) practicing in Florida with a law degree from the National University of Singapore (LL.M. in International and Comparative Law) I will continue to advocate Floridians to invest in a Singapore that invested in me.

It is Singapore that allied with the United States during the cold war, is our partner in free trade, uses much of its huge Sovereign Wealth Fund to invest in the United States and its partner countries and in return encourages U.S. foreign investment by offering low (sometimes no) tax rates on income earned in Singapore.

Very importantly, Singapore kindly provides a safe harbor and home to the U.S. Navy’s sailors and ships of the 7th Naval Fleet.

With love, friendship, and respect,

Richard Junnier, Esq. (NUS Alumni, 2009 cohort)

Richard Junnier's 2009 gradation ceremony at the National University of Singapore College of Law with an LL.M. (a legal post-doctorial masters' degree) in International and Comparative Law.

Richard Junnier’s 2009 gradation ceremony at the National University of Singapore College of Law with an LL.M. (a legal post-doctorial masters’ degree) in International and Comparative Law.

Richard Junnier with Simon Chesterman at the reception celebrating the graduation of the 2009 NYU@NUS cohort. Mr. Chesterman is currently Dean of the National University of Singapore and is considered one of the world's foremost experts on International Law. Richard was his research assistant.

Richard Junnier with Simon Chesterman at the reception celebrating the graduation of the 2009 NYU@NUS cohort. Mr. Chesterman is currently Dean of the National University of Singapore and is considered one of the world’s foremost experts on International Law. Richard was his research assistant.