In historic ruling, US court awards $2b to families of Iran-backed terror victims

Please Share Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponDigg thisEmail this to someonePrint this page

The US Supreme Court generally defers to the executive on cases delving into foreign policy, especially if Congress stands with the executive.

By Yonah Jeremy Bob, JPOST

Despite improved US-Iran relations, the US Supreme Court on Wednesday gave a historic $2 billion victory to the families of Americans killed in attacks blamed on Iran.

At its January hearing on the issue, the US Supreme Court seemed to be seriously entertaining allowing around $2 billion in frozen of Iranian Bank Markazi’s funds to go to the families, but the 6-2 vote in favor made that possibility which risks major tensions in bilateral relations, including over the terms of the recent nuclear deal, a reality.

The court’s decision was a rejection of an appeal brought by Bank Markazi, Iran’s central bank, contesting a 2014 lower-court ruling that stated the money should be handed over to plaintiffs representing hundreds of Americans killed or injured in the 1983 bombing of a US Marine Corps barracks in Beirut, the 1996 Khobar Towers truck bombing in Saudi Arabia, suicide bombings in Israel and other attacks.

The money would go toward satisfying a $2.65 billion judgment against Iran that the families won in US federal court in 2007 in a case filed in 2001. The money is held in New York in a trust account at Citibank, part of Citigroup Inc, but was not fully discovered until 2008-2010.

At issue before the justices was whether Congress violated the separation of powers principle enshrined in the US Constitution by passing the law that specified the funds held in the trust account go toward paying off the judgment.

One issue which portended well for the plaintiffs was that the Obama administration and Congress, despite the Iran deal, were united in favor of the victims receiving the frozen funds.

The US Supreme Court generally defers to the executive on cases delving into foreign policy, especially if Congress stands with the executive.

In January, now deceased Justice Antonin Scalia said Congress regularly enacts laws that are narrow in focus and affect ongoing cases. It is legal so long as it does not undo a court case that has already been decided, Scalia said.

His missing vote and the fact that he has not been replaced were why the vote of 6-2 did not include 9 justices as is the rule.

In January, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that the case before the court on Wednesday actually concerned judgments in 19 different lawsuits that were consolidated.

Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer suggested the case should be viewed from a foreign policy perspective. Generally, in foreign policy disputes, courts give more deference to the executive branch. In the Iran case, President Barack Obama and congressional leaders support the plaintiffs.

In that vein, Justice Anthony Kennedy, who often casts the deciding vote in close cases, wondered if Congress has more leeway when the US has “very delicate relations” with the country in question, as it does with Iran.

On the flip side, Chief Justice John Roberts, seizing on an argument made by Bank Markazi, appeared troubled …read more

Source:: Israpundit

Please Share Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Share on StumbleUponDigg thisEmail this to someonePrint this page