BANK MARKAZI v. PETERSON

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: April 20, 2016
  • Case #: 14-770
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: GINSBURG, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which KENNEDY, BREYER, ALITO, and KAGAN, JJ., joined, and in all but Part II–C of which THOMAS, J., joined. ROBERTS, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which SOTOMAYOR, J., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

22 U.S.C. §8772, a provision of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012, does not violate constraints placed on the Executive and Legislative Branches by the separation of powers principles in the Constitution.

Respondents number more than 1,000 victims of Iran-sponsored acts of terrorism, and rank within 16 discrete groups, each of which brought a lawsuit against Iran pursuant to the exception in the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act of 1976 (FISA) for victims of state-sponsored terrorism. Congress passed §502 of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human rights Act of 2012. §8772 of the Act provides that a court, upon specific findings, may use financial assets held at a New York bank to satisfy compensatory damages awarded against Iran for personal injury or death caused by the acts of terrorism enumerated in FISA terrorism exception. United States v. Klein, 13 Wall. 128, established that Congress may not impose legislation that impairs or directs the power of the judicial or executive branches. Petitioners argue that §8772 violates the Congressional separation of powers compels the courts to reach a predetermined result in their pending case. As such, petitioner argues, §8772 conflicts with the Court’s findings in Klein. However, the Court in Plaut, 514 U.S. at 226, held that Congress may direct courts to apply newly enacted, outcome-altering legislation in pending civil cases. A statute does not violate the independence of the Judiciary when it directs courts to apply a new legal standard to undisputed facts because in doing so, courts determine whether any particular action violates the new prescription. Furthermore, because the respondents number more than 1000, and because the Court gives greater deference to Congress when Congress grants authority regarding foreign affairs, the controlling role of the political branches in enacting §8772 is both necessary and proper. Therefore, §8772 does not violate Congressional separation of powers. AFFIRMED.

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