Legal Translation for FSIA Cases

Translation for Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act Cases

There’s a growing need for legal translation services for FSIA cases. The FSIA was enacted in order to “codify the balance between respecting the immunity historically afforded to foreign sovereigns and holding them accountable, in certain circumstances, for their actions.” An exception to the FSIA is Section 1605A, under which American nationals may sue state sponsors of terrorism in United States courts. The FSIA does not discuss what types of post-judgment procedures are allowed in order to enforce a judgment. However, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are quite broad when it comes to post-judgment discovery.

The Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act allows individuals to sue foreign governments in U.S. Courts. In Leibovitch v. Islamic Republic of Iran, the plaintiff, along with several family members, filed a federal lawsuit for injuries incurred as a result of an act of terrorism. The plaintiffs subsequently sought discovery from U.S. based Boeing Corp. in an attempt to collect on a multi-million-dollar judgment. At issue was whether the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”) precluded the plaintiffs from seeking discovery against Boeing.

Family Injured in Jerusalem

In 2003, the lead plaintiff and several family members were driving in Jerusalem when their minivan was attacked by terrorists. Plaintiffs alleged their van was shot by members of Palestine Islamic Jihad, a terrorist group supported by the government of Iran. A seven year old family member was killed and a three year old family member was permanently injured. The three year old child was an American citizen.

Family sues the Islamic Republic of Iran

The surviving family members subsequently filed a lawsuit against the Islamic Republic of Iran (“Iran”) and other defendants under the Anti-Terrorism Act (“ATA”) and the state-sponsored exception to the FSIA. The defendants were served with notice of the lawsuit in Tehran, but never responded or filed an answer to the complaint. After a long legal dispute and several appeals, the court awarded the plaintiffs $67 million in a default judgment against the defendants.

Family Looks to Boeing Corp. in Attempt to Collect Money Judgment

The plaintiffs were then faced with the often-difficult task of collecting their judgment. In doing so, the plaintiffs served Boeing corporation with a citation to discovery assets pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure along with discovery requests. The purpose of the requests was to identify whether Boeing held any assets belonging to the Iranians. Specifically, the plaintiffs sought information related to a well-publicized report that Boeing has agreed to provide Iran Air with 80 commercial airplanes with an estimated $16 billion made possible by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, otherwise known as the “Iran Nuclear Deal.”

In response, Boeing moved to dismiss the citation to discover assets and moved to quash the subpoenas. Boeing argued that allowing the discovery requests would cause “significant harm to the goals of the United States and its European allies” and would “risk destabilizing the purpose of the JCPOA to provide for regional and international peace and security.’

The plaintiffs disputed Boeing’s arguments. The plaintiffs stated that nothing in the Iran Nuclear Deal prevented victims of terrorism from continuing to exercise their rights under the FSIA.

In addressing these concerns, the court sought a statement from the United States Government on whether or not allowing the requested discovery would interfere with U.S foreign policy toward Iran. The government responded, stating that it did not take a position on the issue of whether the court should allow the requested discovery, only that if the court allowed discovery, it should be carefully supervised in light of the sensitive nature of discovering property belonging to foreign states.

Court Allows Discovery to Proceed Against Boeing

The court agreed with the Plaintiffs that Boeing should be required to answer plaintiffs’ discovery requests as part of the post-judgment phase of the case. The court specifically rejected Boeing’s arguments.

First, the court dismissed Boeing’s argument that the plaintiffs’ motion to compel should be denied because it involved a political question. The court held that while litigation against a foreign country under the FSIA involved political issues, there was no conflict with FSIA or the Iran Nuclear Deal in allowing the requested discovery. The court also rejected Boeing’s argument that the court should abstain from ruling on the plaintiffs’ motion under principles of international comity.

The court reasoned that it would be applying well-settled American law regarding discovery disputes and not foreign law and would not be involving itself in an on-going court proceeding in a foreign court. Furthermore, the court noted that the United States government did not express any concern over comity issues in allowing the requested discovery.

The court also rejected Boeing’s claim that the discovery was essentially irrelevant because it was highly unlikely that the plaintiffs would be able to collect any money as a result of obtaining the requested information. Boeing questioned the plaintiffs’ ability to attach any of Iran’s assets, especially an airplane. The court rejected this argument on the grounds that plaintiffs were simply seeking to discovery information about Iran’s assets and were not actually seeking to attach any assets at that time.

The court found that the Plaintiffs should be allowed the opportunity to discover information about Iran’s assets so that they could identify where Iran might be holding property. Specifically, the court held that the plaintiffs were entitled to question a Boeing employee under oath, obtain information about the airplane deal and any possible assets linked to the deal.

The court did agree with Boeing that the scope of the plaintiffs’ discovery requests was too broad. The court limited the scope of requests to seek only information that was narrowly tailored to tracing Iran’s assets.

The case is Leibovitch v. Islamic Republic of Iran, 297 F.Supp.3d 816 (N.D. Ill. 2018), decided on February 27. 2018 in the United States District Court for the N.D. of Illinois, Eastern Division.

All Language Alliance, Inc. provides legal document translation services from English to Farsi, Persian, Arabic, Turkish, Simplified Chinese, Russian, Traditional Chinese, Indonesian, Malay, Spanish, French for Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act cases.

***This legal translation blog article should not be construed as legal advice. You should always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal needs.***

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