Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Ministry of Defense and Support for the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran v. Elahi, No. 07-615, involving a 2000 lawsuit by Dariusch Elahi against Iran seeking compensation for the murder of Elahi's brother by Iranian agents. Elahi obtained a default judgment from the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in 2000 in the amount of $312 million and sought to collect some of that amount by attaching an earlier judgment against a California company, Cubic, which owed $2.8 million to Iran. Iran opposed the lien on the Cubic judgment, arguing that it was immune from attachment pursuant to the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA). The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the Cubic judgment was not immune from attachment because one of the exceptions to sovereign immunity set forth in FSIA was applicable. The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with the Ninth Circuit. The Supreme Court held that Elahi had waived his right to attach the Cubic judgment because he had previously accepted $2.3 million from the U.S. government as partial compensation for his claim against Iran. Elahi had received that amount as an individual holding a terrorism-related judgment against Iran under the Victims of Terrorism and Violence Protection Act of 2000. When accepting that money, Elahi had signed a waiver of his right to attach property that is at issue in claims against the U.S. before an internaitonal tribunal. The Cubic dispute is the subject of a case between the U.S. and Iran before the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal and thus is covered by Elahi's waiver.