CHICAGO (CN) – A federal judge ruled Boeing must produce its $16 billion contract with Iran Air, a historic agreement made possible by the Iran nuclear deal, in response to discovery requests filed by victims of Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel.
The family of Shlomo Leibovitch, the lead plaintiff in a group of 21 family members, won a $32 million award for a Palestinian Islamic Jihad attack that killed his brother-in-law and maimed his daughter in 2003.
As part of the family’s ongoing attempt to collect on its judgment against Iran, Leibovitch served Boeing with discovery requests seeking to identify Iranian assets being held by the Chicago-based aerospace company.
Specifically, the requests seek information about the $16 billion contract between Boeing and Iran Air for 80 commercial airplanes, a deal made possible by the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear deal.
The Leibovitch family and others sued the Obama administration in 2015 when the U.S. joined the European Union, the U.K., Russia and China in signing the JCPOA.
The plan calls for the United States to lift sanctions in exchange for Iran agreeing to a permanent inspections regime preventing the country from obtaining a nuclear bomb.
In particular, the U.S. agreed to allow the sale of commercial aircraft to Iran. The Boeing-Iran Air deal is the first major commercial transaction between American and Iranian companies in four decades.
Leibovitch claimed in 2015 that the sanctions relief will unfreeze up to $150 billion in Iranian assets, but the Obama administration called that figure “entirely off base,” putting it closer to $50 billion.
Boeing has thus far refused to produce any documents responsive to Leibovitch’s request.
The company asserts that any production would cause “significant harm to the goals of the United States and its European allies” and “risk destabilizing the purpose of the JCPOA to provide for regional and international peace and security.”
U.S. District Judge Rubén Castillo asked the government to weigh in on whether permitting the discovery would interfere with U.S. foreign policy, as Boeing claims.
But the Trump administration, which has been highly critical of the Iran nuclear deal, declined to support Boeing’s position and said its commitments under the agreement “do not require the executive branch to take any specific action with respect to effort by judgment creditors of Iran to pursue post-judgment discovery or other enforcement proceedings.”
Based on this response, Judge Castillo ruled Tuesday that “Boeing’s reliance on the political question doctrine is misplaced.”
“Although the discovery sought certainly has ‘political overtones,’ the court is not deciding any issue at this juncture that is committed to some other branch of government,” the judge continued.
Castillo also found no evidence to support Boeing’s claim that this discovery dispute will “frustrate the purpose” of the Iran nuclear deal or offend other signatories of the agreement.
He ordered Boeing to produce the contract itself, documents that will reveal the existence of any escrow accounts and the details of payment and delivery insofar as they could potentially lead Leibovitch to collect Iranian assets.