Thursday, February 28, 2013

News: Rick St. Hilaire Comments on the First Circuit Ruling in Favor of MFA and Harvard

First Circuit Rules in Favor of MFA and Harvard in Rubin v. Iran
Thursday, February 28, 2013
Rick St. Hilaire on his blog
The First Circuit Court of Appeals on February 27, 2013 decided in favor of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) and Harvard’s museums in the case of Rubin v. Iran.

The case involves victims of a 1997 Iranian-backed terrorist bombing who seek to satisfy a multi-million dollar default court judgment awarded to them in 2003. Since 2005 the Rubin plaintiffs have argued that approximately 2000 reliefs, sculptures, and other archaeological objects located at the MFA and Harvard are the property of Iran that can be seized.  The cultural institutions have been contesting that claim, and yesterday the First Circuit agreed.

The appeals court decision extended its sympathies to the the plaintiffs, saying “we are mindful of the incident that gave rise to the judgment here and the difficulty the plaintiffs are having collecting on that judgment ….”  But the justices upheld “the general rule … that foreign sovereign property in the United States is immune from attachment and execution” because of the Foreign Sovereign Immunity Act (FSIA). 28 U.S.C. § 1609.

The appeals court acknowledged that the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (TRIA) “carves out a narrow exception to that rule, applicable only to ‘blocked assets,’” but wrote that “the plaintiffs have failed to demonstrate that any of the antiquities in the Museums' possession fall within that exception.”

The MFA and Harvard argued in the lower federal district court that Iran does not own the cultural objects. Even if they were owned by Iran, the MFA and Harvard maintained that the FSIA makes the objects immune from attachment...

The ruling:
United States Court of Appeals For the First Circuit, No. 11-2144
JENNY RUBIN, ET AL., Plaintiffs, Appellants, v. ISLAMIC REPUBLIC OF IRAN, ET AL.,Defendants, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, ET AL., Trustees, Appellees.
APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS [Hon. George A. O'Toole, U.S. District Judge] Before Howard, Stahl, and Lipez, Circuit Judges.
February 27, 2013

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