Agudath Israel of America filed an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief last week requesting that the Supreme Court of the United States hear the case of Bartlett, et al., v. Baasiri and Jamal Trust Bank Sal. The case was filed by terror attack victims and their family members who are suing several banks that financed terrorist acts perpetrated by Hezbollah during the Iraq war. The victims (or their relatives) claim the banks aided and abetted Hezbollah by funding and funneling monies to Hezbollah which facilitated the attacks.
One of these banks, the Jammal Trust Bank (JTB), was declared a Specially Designated Global Terrorist by the U. S. Department of Treasury subsequent to the lawsuit’s initiation. As a result, JTB was liquidated by Lebanon’s central bank, effectively turning it from a private bank into an entity owned by Lebanon. JTB then filed a motion with the district court seeking to dismiss the case against it by invoking the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA), arguing that it enjoyed immunity from suit as a result of it being owned by a foreign country.
The district court rejected the argument, but the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit reversed and determined that JTB is indeed shielded by the FSIA. The terror victims filed a petition with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking reversal of the Second Circuit’s decision.
The amicus brief filed by Agudath Israel of America and several other Jewish organizations argues that the bank should not be immune from suit because the bank’s status as a sovereign entity is determined at the time of filing. Since at that time JTB was a private bank, it is subject to the lawsuit notwithstanding what occurred afterwards. Ruling otherwise would incentivize foreign countries to nationalize corporations accused of aiding terror activities in an attempt to insulate them from liability for those actions.
The amicus brief was researched and written by Mark Trachtenberg, Lucas B. Drill, Kaylen Strench, Scott E. Whitman and Ryan Paulsen of Haynes and Boone, LLP, together with Jonathan Rotter and Daniel Paluch.
“Agudath Israel will not stand by and watch terrorism become a protected industry,” said Daniel Kaminetsky, Esq., general counsel for Agudath Israel of America. “It is critical that victims of terror have the recourse to prosecute the financial institutions that aid the terror organizations and that no precedent be set by the courts allowing such companies to evade responsibility for their unlawful actions.”