Rubin, et al., v. Islamic Republic of Iran, et al.

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Sovereign Immunity
  • Date Filed: February 21, 2018
  • Case #: 16-534
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Sotomayor, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all other Members joined, except Kagan, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
  • Full Text Opinion

Section 1610(g) of the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act identifies property that will be available for attachment and execution in satisfaction of § 1605(A) judgments, but it does not in itself divest that property of foreign sovereign immunity.

Petitioners obtained a judgment against Respondents under an exception within the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”) (28 U.S.C. § 1605(A)). Pursuant to FSIA, foreign states are immune from suit unless the sovereign is classified as a “state sponsor of terrorism” – the relevant exception here. Petitioners are victims of a Hamas suicide bombing attack in Jerusalem in 1997, and were awarded a default judgment for $71.5 million. When the judgment was not paid, Petitioners filed suit to attach antique assets held in the University of Chicago. Both the District Court and the Seventh Circuit held that §1610(g) subjects the antiques to attachment and execution but does not automatically abrogate sovereign immunity. The Court reasoned that §1610(g) did not exempt the property from immunity because other provisions within §1610 explicitly address whether sovereign immunity of state or property is subject to abrogation. While Petitioner’s could attach the property under §1610(g), they must point to another provision “divesting the property” of its sovereign immunity. Because the section “conspicuously lacks . . . textual markers,” the Court refused to import an abrogation of immunity, and deferred to Congress’ legislative power. AFFIRMED.

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