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.
Lowering the Bar (channeling Dave Eyvazzadeh at Wired/Autopia) has some word on other unusual lawsuits filed by that Hillsborough, Calif. man who’s suing multiple defendants over San Francisco Airport noise and congestion [earlier]
The New York Times quotes my testimony to the hearing on H.R. 847.
Unfortunately, the story incorrectly refers to AEI as a “lobbying organization,” which it is definitively not. It is unimaginable how the Times could have made this mistake, given that just three weeks ago, they had to correct an identical mistake; the senior editor has promised me a correction.
I just got to the September 15 issue near the bottom of my pile of unread mail, and there’s an excellent piece of reporting by Jennifer Kahn on the case of James Zadroga, the police officer who worked at Ground Zero in the wake of 9/11 whose death was attributed to exposure to dust and was a symbol for the thousands of plaintiffs in that litigation–until the New York medical examiner found evidence that prescription drug injections were responsible for the lung scarring. Kahn’s article is tremendously damning on that question. Zadroga’s name was successfully used to get legislation passed in New York state, and similar legislation (on which I testified) is pending in Congress to open the taxpayer fisc to thousands of questionable claims.
“A federal judge in Manhattan took the unusual step on Thursday of overturning settlements in four lawsuits filed on behalf of victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, saying the firm that negotiated the deals was seeking excessive legal fees and that the settlement amounts themselves were unreasonable.” Judge Alvin Hellerstein declared that to give the Maryland-based firm, Azrael, Gann & Franz $7 million for representing four Pentagon workers’ families “would reflect a very large windfall,” given that the firm’s “entire strategy seems to have been to coast on the work of others.” Hellerstein also noted that the settlement figures, averaging $7 million per victim, seemed out of line with earlier 9/11 awards for the families of modest wage earners. (Benjamin Weiser, “Judge Overturns Accords in 4 Suits by 9/11 Victims”, New York Times, Jul. 26). More: David Giacalone.