Wednesday, August 31, 2016
Today the Second Circuit issued its decision in Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization. The claims in the case were brought by eleven American families against the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority under the Anti-Terrorism Act (18 U.S.C. § 2333(a)), based on terror attacks in Israel. The plaintiffs had won a $655.5 million jury verdict in the district court, but the decision today ruled that U.S. courts lacked personal jurisdiction.
The Second Circuit found that general jurisdiction was not permissible in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Daimler. As for specific jurisdiction, the court concluded:
In sum, because the terror attacks in Israel at issue here were not expressly aimed at the United States and because the deaths and injuries suffered by the American plaintiffs in these attacks were “random [and] fortuitous” and because lobbying activities regarding American policy toward Israel are insufficiently “suit-related conduct” to support specific jurisdiction, the Court lacks specific jurisdiction over these defendants.
Here are the opinion’s final paragraphs:
The terror machine gun attacks and suicide bombings that triggered this suit and victimized these plaintiffs were unquestionably horrific. But the federal courts cannot exercise jurisdiction in a civil case beyond the limits prescribed by the due process clause of the Constitution, no matter how horrendous the underlying attacks or morally compelling the plaintiffs’ claims.
The district court could not constitutionally exercise either general or specific personal jurisdiction over the defendants in this case. Accordingly, this case must be dismissed.