23 Senators Join Bipartisan Letter Urging Administration to Weigh in on Supreme Court’s Review of Antiterrorism Act Case
WASHINGTON – Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley led 23 Senate colleagues in calling on the administration to avoid any further, unnecessary delay in providing its views on an
Antiterrorism Act case. The case is currently pending a grant of certiorari from the Supreme Court of the United States.
The bipartisan letter follows an
filed by Grassley and several colleagues in April on this case urging the court to review a federal appeals court decision undermining the ability of U.S. victims of international terrorism to seek justice. The appeals court’s decision effectively nullified the
Antiterrorism Act of 1992
, a law passed by Congress—and championed by Grassley—specifically intended to protect Americans abroad and to provide victims with a tool to bring terrorists to justice in U.S. courts.
“Twenty-five years ago, I led the Senate’s effort to improve justice for Americans victimized by acts of terrorism abroad. By passing the Antiterrorism Act, Congress’s intent was clear: U.S. victims of international terrorism should be able to seek justice in U.S. courts against those responsible, no matter where the attacks occurred,”
Grassley said. “The 2nd Circuit’s decision disregarded the central purpose of the Antiterrorism Act, and could leave U.S. victims of terror abroad without important tools to seek justice. The Supreme Court should review this case and restore Congress’ action to hold terrorists accountable, and the administration should waste no time in weighing in on the issue.”
Sokolow v. Palestine Liberation Organization, involves U.S. victims of terrorist attacks occurring in Israel in the early 2000s. In 2004, the victims sued the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian Authority (PA) under the
Antiterrorism Act to recover damages. In 2015, after more than a decade of litigation, a unanimous jury awarded $655 million to the victims, finding that officers of the PA perpetrated several of the attacks and that the PLO and PA provided support to terrorist organizations involved in the attacks. On appeal, however, the 2
nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the lower court’s verdict, reasoning that the PLO and PA are protected from U.S. court jurisdiction in the suit because the attacks “were not sufficiently connected to the United States” and were not “specifically targeted against United States citizens.”
On June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court requested the views of the United States before it determines whether to grant certiorari in the case. It has been over three months since the Court’s request, with little indication that the administration will provide its views anytime soon.
Leading the letter with Grassley are senators Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Chris Coons (D-Del.). Other signatories include Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Mich.), Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), John Boozman (R-Ark.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), James Risch (R-Idaho), Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Bob Casey (D-Penn.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Ron Wyden (D-Org.), Susan Collins (R-Maine) and R-Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).
Full text of the
October 26, 2017
VIA ELECTRONIC TRANSMISSION
The Honorable Jeff Sessions The Honorable Rex W. Tillerson
Attorney General Secretary of State
U.S. Department of Justice U.S. Department of State
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. 2201 C Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20530 Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Attorney General Sessions and Secretary Tillerson:
On June 26, 2017, the Supreme Court called for the views of the Solicitor General in
Sokolow v. PLO, No. 16-1071, a case concerning the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1992 (“ATA”) that is currently on petition for a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. We write to strongly urge the Administration to avoid any unnecessary delay and respond as soon as possible to the Court’s request for views in this important matter.
Passed largely in response to the Palestine Liberation Organization’s 1985 murder of U.S. citizen Leon Klinghoffer aboard an Italian cruise ship, the ATA provides that perpetrators or supporters of international terrorism may be brought to justice in U.S. courts for injuring U.S. citizens regardless of where the injuries occurred. To accomplish this, the ATA provides for extraterritorial jurisdiction over terrorist acts abroad against Americans. As you know, both the State Department and Justice Department supported the enactment of the ATA.
Sokolow, the ATA worked just as Congress intended: American victims secured a unanimous verdict against the PLO and Palestinian Authority (“PA”), whom the jury found liable for perpetrating and materially supporting acts of international terrorism abroad against U.S. citizens. The Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, however, vacated the jury’s decision, holding that the PLO and PA were protected from U.S. courts’ exercise of jurisdiction because the terror attacks “were not sufficiently connected to the United States.”
Ironically, the Second Circuit’s decision throwing out the verdict for lack of jurisdiction is precisely the result that the ATA was enacted to avoid. If left to stand, the decision casts severe doubt on the continued ability of other American victims of international terrorist attacks to obtain some semblance of justice in our nation’s courts against the perpetrators, and undermines a key counterterrorism tool that was deliberately crafted by Congress with the support and assistance of your Departments.
Sokolow plaintiffs have since filed a petition for certiorari, and
amicus briefs were promptly filed in support thereof by the House of Representatives and a bipartisan group of twenty-three United States senators. It has now been over three months, however, since the Court requested the views of the United States, with little indication at this time that such views will soon be provided to the Court.
The case is now in its fourteenth year. One of the plaintiffs—the father of a boy killed in a bombing at the Frank Sinatra International Student Center in Jerusalem—has already died without seeing the case finalized. Justice for American victims of international terrorism should not be delayed any longer.
Accordingly, we urge the Administration to demonstrate its resolve to combat international terrorism and put American victims first by avoiding any unnecessary delay and responding as soon as possible to the Supreme Court’s request for the views of the United States in this matter.