With encouragement from both Congress and an active plaintiff’s bar, victims and survivors have been suing various foreign entities in U.S. courts charging complicity, sometimes indirect and roundabout, with participants in international terrorism. But a suit against Bank of China over a Palestinian Islamic Jihad attack suggests that “when it comes to battling global terror, civil suits by American citizens often do more harm than good.” Both the United States and Israel have reportedly negotiated with the Chinese institution to develop ways of combating illicit money transfers, but privately directed damages litigation tends to deter cooperation and perpetuate mistrust, and is hard to call off even when it has begun doing real harm to diplomacy. Even when lawsuits against some of the more obvious bad actors succeed, “the U.S. government has for years blocked financial judgments awarded to American plaintiffs against Iran and other foreign governments. Why? Such judgments are seen as conflicting with American foreign policy interests.” [James Loeffler and Moria Paz, Slate]
Earlier on lawsuits over terrorism: suing U.S. government over Kenya, Tanzania embassy bombings; Ted Frank 2007 essay; everybody “except the guys who did it“; Egyptian hotel forum-shopping; Tanzania gem smuggling; 9/11 suits and more.
“A federal judge has thrown out a libel lawsuit a son of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas filed last year against Foreign Policy magazine, charging that a commentary the journal published leveled unfounded allegations of corruption. … The piece was written by Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.” [Josh Gerstein/Politico, McClatchy]
After the Olympia Food Co-op in Washington removed products from Israel from its shelves, it was sued by several members who claimed that it had violated its bylaws. “A motion filed by attorneys with Davis Wright Tremaine in Seattle and by attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights asserts that the lawsuit is a ‘Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation,'” banned under a Washington statute; one of the attorneys who filed the suit says “it is ‘absolutely, positively not’ a SLAPP suit.” [The Olympian, more here and here]
A new way to harass authors whose controversial message one disapproves of? The lawsuit, which demands $5 million, claims that the former President’s 2006 volume “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid” contains “numerous false and knowingly misleading statements intended to promote the author’s agenda of anti-Israel propaganda and to deceive the reading public instead of presenting accurate information as advertised.” Sanctions, please! [Washington Post "Political Bookworm"]
“A Palestinian man has been convicted of rape after having consensual sex with a woman who had believed him to be a fellow Jew.” [Guardian] Rape by deception is a crime in many although not all jurisdictions, with impersonation of a woman’s husband or lover being one classic fact pattern giving rise to charges; two years ago, in a debate over such a law in Massachusetts, critics expressed unease about which other sorts of misrepresentations might be reached as well [CBS News]
As for the civil-law side, a few years back (to quote from the manuscript of my forthcoming book Schools for Misrule):
a Northwestern law professor, building on the undeniable fact that many persons behave badly on the dating market, proposed as a remedy the development of a new tort of “sexual fraud,” which would allow lawsuits for cash damages against persons who use lies or insincerity to get others to sleep with them (“Of course I’m not married.”) It was one of the year’s most widely hailed and talked-about articles.
More: Max Fisher, Atlantic Wire (rounding up reactions); Eugene Volokh (including link to discussion of Massachusetts bill). And: comments from Andrew Sullivan’s readers.
From the Federalist Society, which is among the sponsors of the D.C. event tomorrow, along with the Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression and other groups:
Lawfare is the use of the law and legal institutions to achieve military, political or strategic objectives. In recent years, lawfare has come to include libel litigation aimed at suppressing public dialogue about radical Islam and terrorism. Parties with financial means have been filing lawsuits, in American courts and abroad, against people who speak out against or write critically about radical Islam. Defendants include authors, researchers, journalists, politicians, and human rights advocacy groups.
“Libel Tourism,” is a form of forum shopping, where plaintiffs bring actions against American citizens in foreign jurisdictions that lack the free speech protections afforded by the U.S. Constitution. As a result New York State has passed the Libel Terrorism Protection Act, and the U.S. government is considering the Free Speech Protection Act, both of which operate to nullify said foreign libel judgments.
Our conference will address these fundamental issues: What does freedom of speech truly mean? Is U.S. legislation prohibiting the enforcement of foreign libel judgments necessary? What should be the role of the European Union and the United Nations in addressing these issues?
Some further reading: Brooke Goldstein/Family Security Matters, Aaron Eitan Meyer/New Majority.
“International human rights law” — what could sound more cuddly and humanitarian? Who could disapprove of such a thing? That’s one reason it’s so popular at almost every law school nowadays following years of generous support by the Ford Foundation, Soros, and other donors. In practice, as is now clear, it often tends to furnish a set of handy weapons for carrying on “lawfare” — warfare by means of courtroom action against one’s adversaries, particularly in the courts of third countries. (Anne Herzberg, “Lawfare against Israel”, WSJ, Nov. 5). For the closely related issue of laws empowering private attorneys and litigants to pursue foreign entities over alleged terrorist support whether or not such actions advance U.S. diplomatic goals, see Sept. 12, 2007.