Hot Off the Wires: Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. has been notified that the Company's Request for Oral Arguments in the "Black Swan" case has been granted. The hearings are tentatively scheduled to take place during the week of February 28, 2011.
Generally, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, where this case is pending, hears oral arguments in approximately 25% of all appeals cases. Odyssey is appealing the district court's dismissal of the "Black Swan" case based on the district court's finding of lack of federal court jurisdiction.
"We are looking forward to presenting oral arguments in the 'Black Swan' case to the appellate court. We believe the district court incorrectly dismissed the case based upon clearly erroneous factual findings and flawed legal analysis of basic admiralty principles and the concept of sovereign immunity," said Melinda MacConnel, Odyssey Vice President and General Counsel. "In addition, Odyssey and the other claimants in the case were denied their right to due process because the district court failed to conduct an evidentiary hearing on the disputed issues of fact."
Additional appeals have been filed by groups who have presented documentation indicating that if Spain is correct, and the recovered cargo originated from the Mercedes, they are descendants of the owners of Mercedes' cargo and have legitimate property rights. Those claimants have recognized Odyssey's archaeological recovery efforts and have acknowledged Odyssey's right to a salvage award. Their pleadings focus on the Eleventh Circuit's recent opinion in the Aqua Log case (Aqua Log, Inc. vs. State of Georgia, 594 F.3d 1330, 11th Cir. 2010) which requires a sovereign to have possession of property in order to claim that the property is immune from the jurisdiction of the court. They also point out that if the court does not have jurisdiction, it has no authority to transfer possession of the property to anyone but Odyssey which had possession prior to the litigation.
In May 2007, Odyssey announced the discovery of the "Black Swan," a Colonial-period site located in the Atlantic Ocean which yielded over 500,000 silver coins weighing more than 17 tons, hundreds of gold coins, worked gold, and other artifacts. Odyssey completed an extensive pre-disturbance survey of the "Black Swan" site, which included recording over 14,000 digital still images used to create a photomosaic of the site.
The coins and artifacts were brought into the United States with a valid export license and imported legally pursuant to U.S. law. Odyssey brought the artifacts under the jurisdiction of the U.S. District Court by filing an Admiralty arrest action. This procedure allows any legitimate claimant with an interest in the property to make a claim.
Odyssey Marine Exploration, Inc. (Nasdaq:OMEX) is engaged in the exploration of deep-ocean shipwrecks and uses innovative methods and state-of-the-art technology to conduct extensive search and archaeological recovery operations around the world. Odyssey discovered the Civil War era shipwreck of the SS Republic(R) in 2003 and recovered over 50,000 coins and 14,000 artifacts from the site nearly 1,700 feet deep. In May 2007, Odyssey announced the historic deep-ocean treasure recovery of over 500,000 silver and gold coins, weighing 17 tons, from a Colonial era site code-named "Black Swan." In February 2009, Odyssey announced the discovery of Balchin's HMS Victory. Odyssey also has other shipwreck projects in various stages of development around the world.