Extradition Lawyers Association

Patterson (4 May 2015)

Patterson v. Wagner, No. 13–56080, 2015 WL 1963541 (9th Cir. 2015)

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that (i) the extradition treaty between the United States and South Korea did not contain a mandatory bar to untimely extradition requests, and (ii) the Status of Forces Agreement governing American military families did not establish individual rights enforceable by the judiciary to block extradition. In 1997, Arthur Patterson, the 17-year old son of an American serviceman stationed in South Korea, was involved in some manner in the murder of a Korean college student. Directly following the murder, Patterson was convicted of destruction of evidence related to the murder, and served time in prison before leaving South Korea for the United States. In 2011, South Korean authorities sought the extradition of Patterson from the U.S., alleging that he had, in fact, committed the murder. Patterson argued that (i) the extradition treaty prohibits his extradition because his prosecution for murder would be barred by the statute of limitations in the U.S.; and (ii) his extradition would violate the double-jeopardy provision of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), thereby allowing him to be prosecuted more than once for the same offense. The Court concluded that the extradition treaty does not impose a mandatory bar to extradition in cases where the prosecution would have been barred by the relevant statute of limitations. Rather, the Secretary of State has the discretion “to grant or deny extradition in a case where the statute of limitations in the United States has expired . . . Federal courts thus have no authority . . . to dictate to the Secretary of State what he or she must do in such a case.” The Court also rejected a central premise of Patterson’s argument concerning SOFA—that the rights conferred by SOFA may be enforced by the judiciary to block extradition. Although the court agreed that SOFA applies to Patterson, as he was the dependent of an American serviceman stationed in South Korea at the time of the murder, the Court did not attempt to consider whether SOFA forbids Patterson’s persecution for murder in South Korea. Even if the double-jeopardy provision of SOFA forbade the prosecution, the judiciary does not have the authority to enforce it: “SOFA’s provisions . . . establish a diplomatic conflict resolution scheme with no role for the judiciary.”