WASHINGTON (CN) – The Supreme Court invited the U.S. solicitor general on Monday to weigh in on whether a $10.2 billion judgment against Sudan was properly reduced.
U.S. District Judge John Bates in Washington had entered the original verdict in 2016, which involved consolidated 15 cases by people who were either injured or lost family members in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings.
James Owens, Monicah Opati and the other plaintiffs wanted Sudan to pay for harboring al-Qaida operatives who carried out the simultaneous truck bombings in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, on Aug. 7, 1998, but the East African nation opted not to participate in the proceedings until after Bates issued what he termed as a “wake-up call” to Sudan.
On appeal, Sudan pointed out that it ejected Osama bin Laden from its borders back in 1996 when the United States has designated him an international terrorist.
Though the D.C. Circuit refused to order a do-over last year, it did shave off the more than $4.3 billion in punitive damages that Bates had included in the judgment.
Sudan had advanced several arguments for its district court no-show, noting that it had to grapple with natural disasters and civil wars, and that it did not understand the U.S. legal process enough to appreciate the consequences of its absence.
While the three-judge panel rejected these excuses, it agreed that there was no clear basis for the retroactive application of the military appropriations bill justifying the punitive damages — the 2008 National Defense Authorization Act.
“Therefore, we vacate the award of punitive damages to plaintiffs proceeding under the federal cause of action,” the opinion states.
U.S. Circuit Judges Karen LeCraft Henderson and Judith Rogers joined U.S. Circuit Judge Douglas Ginsburg on the panel.
On Monday, the Supreme Court invited the U.S. solicitor general to weigh in on three petitions for certiorari it received regarding the case.
Opati brought the third petition. She is represented by the Miller Law Firm of Orange, Virginia, and by the Perles Law Firm of Washington.
The Supreme Court did not issue any comment as part of its order. It did not otherwise grant certiorari to any case Monday.