Palestinian National Authority and PLO Subject To Suit In U.S. District Court for D.C. Under Antiterrorism Act

In Biton v. Palestinian Interim Self-Government Authority, the U.S. District Court for D.C., for purposes of ruling on a motion to dismiss, held that it may exercise personal jurisdiction over the Palestinian National Authority and the PLO; that Palestine is not a “state” for purposes of the FSIA based on the current record; and that this case does not present a non-justiciable political question.

U.S. District Court in DC Enters Another Terror Tort Judgment reports that Judge Urbina of the U.S. District Court for D.C. awarded more than $400 million to eight Americans hurt in a 1997 Jerusalem suicide attack. Here's a link to the opinion itself. The news article suggests that the victims can collect partial payment from the U.S. government, which uses frozen Iranian assets as collateral. I don't know if that is true for these cases -- they were filed on 9/29/00 and 7/31/01 respectively, which were not the filing dates specified by Congress in HR 3244. Maybe there was some other special legislation by Congress?

Sept. 11 Victims' Effort To Attach Frozen Iraqi Assets Is Denied

The New York Law Journal reports that U.S. District Judge Harold Baer denied a motion by the administrators of the estates of two World Trade Center victims to block the transfer of $63.9 million from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to Iraq.

Meanwhile, Declarations and Exclusions has pointed to a news story about other September 11 litigation in New York.

Civil Judgment In Favor of Victims of 1983 Bombing of Embassy in Beirut

In Dammarell v. Islamic Republic of Iran, over 80 plaintiffs who were the victims of the April 1983 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Beirut brought suit against the Islamic Republic of Iran and its intelligence agency, MOIS. The defendants failed to appear after proper service. In this opinion, Judge Bates of the U.S. District Court for D.C. made extensive findings of fact and awarded $123 million in compensatory damages to a group of 10 plaintiffs. Plaintiffs were represented by Crowel & Moring.

It doesn't look like the U.S. Treasury can be tapped to pay this judgment, unless Congress passes some more special legislation.

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U.S. District Court of Maryland Also Refuses To Find Algerian Accords Have Been Repudiated By Congress

In Hegna v. Islamic Republic of Iran, Judge Motz, like the D.C. Circuit, declined to find that Congress has repudiated the Algerian Accords. In this case the plaintiffs, had obtained a default judgment in the amount of $42,000,000 in compensatory damages and $333,000,000 in punitive damages. To try to collect, plaintiffs obtained writs of attachment against two parcels of real property located in Bethesda, Maryland owned by Iran. The Court granted a motion to quash made by the United States.

Judge Motz wraps up his opinion as follows:

Perhaps in enacting TRIA some members of Congress did believe they were subjecting Iranian assets to attachment in terrorism cases. However, the language of section 201 as enacted did not unequivocally accomplish that end. . . . Congress may have skillfully forged a political compromise. But in doing so, it created an ambiguity about the attachability of Iranian assets.

In accordance with precedent established by Chief Justice Marshall in The Charming Betsy almost two hundred years ago, the ambiguity must be construed in a manner consistent with our treaty obligations. That was the proper rule of construction for an honorable young nation facing an uncertain future, and it remains the proper rule of construction for a mature, powerful, and confident republic confronting a hostile and dangerous world. We are a nation of law, ennobled by principle, not a people brutalized by hatred or diminished by those who commit grievous wrongs against us.

D.C. Circuit affirms dismissal of class action based on Iranian hostage crisis, notwithstanding special legislation by Congress meant to assist the plaintiffs

There have been many terror torts opinions coming out of the federal courts in D.C. There seems to be a lot of public funds riding on the outcome of many of these suits.

In Roeder v. Islamic Republic of Iran, the D.C. Circuit recently affirmed the trial court's dismissal of a class action on behalf of the Iranian hostage crisis victims and their families. The Court did so notwithstanding that while the litigation was pending, Congress passed several pieces of legislation expressly intended to assist the plaintiffs in making this claim, and even identifying this action by docket number. The Court reasoned that notwithstanding this legislation, it did nothing to resolve the issue of whether the Algerian Accord, which resolved the crisis, prohibited this action; and the Court found that it did:

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