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Thursday, May 23, 2024 | Back issues
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Terror Victims Must Try Again to Serve Iran

WASHINGTON (CN) - Victims of terrorism trying to effect post-judgment service on Iran must attempt to do so through diplomatic channels by Nov. 30, a federal judge ruled.

Chief U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth said that the plaintiffs have failed to accomplish service by mail after "over a year of trying."

"The court pauses to emphasize, as it has before, that the above conclusion should not be read as a lack of sympathy for plaintiffs' position," Lamberth wrote. "The U.S. Department of State charges a substantial fee for victims of terrorism - such as plaintiffs here - who must use the State Department to serve Iran with FSIA-related papers. In a context where successful enforcement of judgments is notoriously difficult and the prospects for recovering damages are rather bleak, the imposition of these substantial fees imposes a significant burden upon victims of terrorism. And, sadly, this is not the first time that the government has stationed itself in a position to undermine the interests of victims of terrorism in FSIA litigation. The federal government has promised victims of terrorism a forum and opportunity to seek compensation for their devastating losses, exploited this glimmer of hope to extract exorbitant fees from those victims, and then actively undermined those victims' efforts to obtain satisfaction of legal and valid judgments in order to protect its own coffers. Three years ago, this court observed that 'the great travesty in all this is that our political branches have essentially told victims of terrorism to continue their long march to justice down a path that leads to nowhere.' The government now taxes those victims for their travails, as well.

"Despite these injustices, the court cannot ignore the important procedural protections for foreign states and their instrumentalities built into the FSIA."

The plaintiffs, led by Seth Charles (Klein) Ben Haim, informed the court two months ago that it had properly served Iran and its Ministry of Information and Security by mail.

But Lamberth said the plaintiffs failed to cite an adequate authority supporting their claim that they adequately served Iran "where a service package was signed for and then immediately rejected."

"Most of the legal authorities cited in the brief are not on point," he added. "Some of plaintiffs' authorities actually deal with diplomatic service under § 1608(a)(4), not mail service under § 1608(a)(3) which is the provision at issue here. Other of plaintiffs' authorities deal with service outside the context of FSIA [Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act], and are thus inapposite."

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