Monday, July 9, 2012
Rubin v. Iran Update: Illinois District Court Gets Case Back Following Supreme Court's Rejection of Appeal -- U.S. Files Amicus Brief in First Circuit Supporting MuseumsThe case of Jenny Rubin, et al. v. Islamic Republic of Iran has been restarted in federal district court in Illinois (docket 03-cv-9370). That is because the United States Supreme Court on June 25 declined to hear the Rubin plaintiffs' request to review the Seventh Circuit decision, which ruled against them. Justices Antonin Scalia and Elena Kagan did not participate in the decision.
Rubin and the other plaintiffs are trying to recover a court-awarded money judgment against Iran for that nation's sponsorship of a deadly terrorist attack that harmed the parties. They wish to acquire Persian artifacts located at Chicago's Field Museum and the University of Chicago in order execute the judgment. The case moved from the federal district court in northern Illinois to the circuit court of appeals. The case was to be sent back to the district court by the appeals court, but the Rubin plaintiffs sought review by the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court has now returned the case to the district court, where a status hearing is scheduled for July 18 at 3:00 p.m.
In a companion case now in the First Circuit Court of Appeals, the same parties seek to acquire Persian artifacts held at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) in Boston and at Harvard. The United States filed an amicus brief (i.e. friend of the court brief) on June 7 in support of the MFA, the Harvard museums, and Iran.
Federal lawyers argue two points in their brief to the First Circuit. They say that the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act (TRIA) does not authorize the attachment of property not owned by a terrorist state. Second, the government asserts that Iranian property cannot be “contested” within the meaning of the Iranian Assets Control Regulations because "Iran itself has not articulated any claim to the property in question."
The government writes:
"The United States emphatically condemns the act of terrorism that grievously injured the plaintiffs, and has deep sympathy for their suffering. The United States remains committed to disrupting terrorist financing and to aggressively pursuing those responsible for committing terrorist acts against U.S. nationals. In addition, however, the United States has a strong interest in ensuring that courts properly interpret TRIA’s scope. Normally, unless a person obtains a license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), that person is barred from attaching assets that are blocked under various sanctions programs, such as the Iranian Assets Control Regulations."
The lawyers add:
"The district court found that Iran does not, in fact, own the assets in question. The United States takes no position on the question of ownership. If this Court affirms the district court’s holding, however, that ruling will also preclude attachment of the assets under TRIA. TRIA does not, as plaintiffs contend, permit them to attach the artifacts possessed by the Museums if those assets are not owned by Iran."
The government concludes that the court "should hold that the Museums’ artifacts cannot be attached under TRIA unless the plaintiffs establish that Iran owns the artifacts. Additionally, if the Court reaches the issue, it should hold that an asset is not “contested” for purposes of [the Iranian Assets Control Regulations] unless Iran itself is claiming an interest in the asset."
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