Phillipine Court of Appeals Refuses to Enforce $2 Billion Judgment Awarded by a U.S. Court in ATS and TVPA Case

The Court of Appeals of the Philippines has upheld its earlier decision against the enforcement of a Hawaii federal district court’s judgment granting Martial Law victims under the Marcos regime almost $2 billion in damages.

In refusing to enforce the judgment, the Philippines appellate court held that the case, which was a class action suit filed by 10,000 victims against the Marcos estate, gave “no opportunity for the … Estate [of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos] to confront each and every claimant,” and therefore the judgment was obtained in violation of Marcos’ constitutional due process rights.  The court declared that “rules of comity should not be made to prevail over our constitution.”

The Court of Appeals also concluded that the judgment against Marcos’ estate was “constitutionally infirm” because, although the complaint was filed under the Alien Torts Statute, the judgment was imposed under the Torture Victim Protection Act.

Chiquita Trial Set to Start in Colombian Terror Case Brought Under Anti-Terrorism Act

Trial is set to begin next month in the case of six Americans killed in the 1990s by the Columbian terrorist group Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia, or FARC.  The plaintiffs are seeking to hold banana company Chiquita Brands International liable for the deaths because it allegedly paid the terrorist group about $288,000 over the course of nine years.  The lawsuit alleges that the payments constituted material support to the terrorist group, which is prohibited under the federal Anti-Terrorism Act.  The plaintiffs claim that Chiquita made the payments because it to assist it in expanding banana operations in Colombia.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra declared that “[g]iven the widely reported news relating to the decades-long civil war in Colombia, and emergence of notoriously violent guerrilla groups in the context of that war, a reasonable juror could conclude that giving money to Colombian guerrillas, having no function other than the perpetration of violence, would enhance the terror capabilities of the guerrillas and lead to more violence,” and that the facts as alleged support the idea that Chiquita knew its payments would be used to fund kidnappings and murders.

In addition to the Anti-Terrorism Act claims of the six murdered Americans, families of Colombian nationals also filed suit against Chiquita under the Alien Tort Statute.  Those claims are in the discovery stage, however, and are not likely to go to trial for at least another year.

Notably, Chiquita pleaded guilty in 2007 to funding a different Colombian guerrilla group, the Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, and paid a $25 million fine.

The trial is scheduled to begin on February 5, and to last six weeks.

Rubin v. Islamic Republic of Iran — SCOTUS to weigh in on whether terror victims can collect on judgments against state-sponsors of terrorism

In September 1997, three Hamas suicide bombers entered a crowded pedestrian mall in Jerusalem and blew themselves up, killing and injuring many people. Eight plaintiffs – comprised of victims or family members of victims of the Jerusalem attack – filed suit against the Islamic Republic of Iran alleging liability on the basis that Iran’s government, as a U.S-designated state sponsor of terror providing support to Hamas, were responsible for the attack.

In 2003, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia entered a default judgment in favor of the plaintiffs in the amount of $71.5 million, which Iran did not pay. In an effort to collect the $71.5 million, the plaintiffs initiated numerous other cases across the country over the course of 13 years as creditors attempting to seize and attach on Iranian assets located inside the United States.

The plaintiffs sought to seize four collections of ancient Persian artifacts, including a collection of tablets containing some of the oldest writings in the world – the Persepolis tablets.  These artifacts, which are allegedly owned by Iran, were loaned to Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History and the Oriental Institute at the University of Chicago.

The District Court held, and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals agreed, that although the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) allows plaintiffs to seize the property of a foreign state-sponsor of terror that is “used for a commercial activity in the United States,” the law requires the property to be used by the foreign government itself, not a third party like the museums here.

The Ninth Circuit, Second Circuit, and District of Columbia Circuits Court of Appeals, in separate cases, have all previously held that terror victims are able to attach and execute on any asset of a foreign state sponsor of terror.

The U.S. Supreme Court must now resolve the split among the Circuits and resolve a singular question: can United States citizen victims of terror sue foreign countries designated as state sponsors of terror, win judgments for money damages, and seize and sell ANY property of the foreign country to satisfy the judgment?

The plaintiffs argue that “private lawsuits brought directly against designated state sponsors of terror like” Iran have been “one of the most effective civil terror-fighting tools,” and that allowing the 7th Circuit’s ruling to stand “would thwart many such enforcement efforts, shielding assets that Iran and other state sponsors of terror hold in the United States.”

Oral argument was held on December 4th.

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