On April 20, 2016, the United State Supreme Court ruled that Iran should be liable to terror victims and their families by permitting U.S. assets to be seized. The judgment arose out of the 1983 Beirut bombing case and other acts of terror committed by Iran against Americans.
In effect, the Supreme Court upheld an act of Congress that authorized and directed the Iranian Central Bank assets in the U.S. to be turned over to the victims. Congress acted in 2011 after numerous courts held that there was state-sponsored terrorism. The case arose out of a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit that was heard in the August 2013 term.
Arguments before the Supreme Court were held on January 13, 2016. The specific question that the Court sought to address was whether this act of Congress violated the constitutional principle of separation of powers. The act permitted victims to attach Iranian assets for unpaid judgments against Iran.
Over the years, Iran had refused to comply with these judgments. Asset attachment in the United States was then sought by the lawyers for the victims and their families. Bank Markazi, the central bank of Iran, challenged the right to seize these assets, arguing that the congressional action violated the separation of powers.
The decision was 6-2, with Justice Ginsberg writing for the majority. Justice Sotomayor was joined in her dissent by Chief Justice Roberts.
By Bob Reinhard
AP: Terror victims win Supreme Court judgment against Iran
US Supreme Court: No. 14-770
Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute: Bank Markazi v. Peterson (14-770)
SCOTUS Blog: Bank Markazi v. Peterson
Photo courtesy of Benjamin B’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License